This morning is the last in a 6-part Advent/Christmas sermon series called “Hope Is On the Way,” during which we will consider how the past and future colliding in the present gives us hope for today. Psalm 33:20 is our theme Scripture: “We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield.” Today’s message focuses on the significance of God taking on human flesh.
Scripture: Hebrews 2:10-18
I grew up in a traditional nuclear family. Two parents, three children, a dog and, later, a cat, all living in the same home. But living all around us were other types of families. There were families with:
- two parents and an only-child
- a single-parent and an only-child
- a single-parent and multiple children
- extended family living under one roof
- both parents working
- young parents
- older parents
- step-parents and step-children
- adopted children
- no children
- unwed parents
- children who belonged to mom (or the dad), and the “father-figure” (or “mother figure”) was a significant-other
- divorced parents
These days it’s not uncommon to find families with same-sex parents, both married and not married.
And, although I’m not sure how prevalent it is, I know that there are also some single-parent families where a there was never a spouse in the picture. Clearly, what constitutes a family is very broad.
What I’ve described so far is only what a family looks like on the outside. Behind closed doors the family experience is just as diverse. I was fortunate enough to have a very positive experience of family. But that’s not true for everyone. A lot of people equate ‘family’ with tension and trauma. We even have a term for it: dysfunctional families. For a whole host of reasons that are beyond the scope of this message, we’ll simply acknowledge the fact that certain family dynamics will often result in a negative experience of family.
All of this is to say that any discussion about what it means to be family can be a bit tricky because we all bring our own experiences and ideas to the table. When I assigned the title, “We Are Family,” to today’s message, I did so aware of the fact that some of you may look at it and say to yourself, “OK, that’s probably a good thing,” while others might say, “Well, let’s see where he takes this because based on my own experience I’m not so sure that’s a good thing.”
So, I’m starting from the position that what we call the family unit is a good thing. More to the point, that it was designed by God. And that he designed it to be a significant means through which human existence and society at-large are built-up and strengthened. The unfortunate reality is that sin marred God’s original design, and the result is that all families are broken—even the most ‘functional’—and that family brokenness contributes in large part to personal brokenness. In fact, it’s my belief that the issues each of us most struggle with in life can be traced back to something that happened very early-on in childhood within the context of our families; so early, in fact, that we’ll never consciously remember them. It just feels like it’s always been that way. Anyway, I’m starting from the position that being a part of a family is supposed to be a good thing, and can be a good thing even if one’s own family-of-origin experiences were undesirable, or even destructive. To say ‘we are family’ is a good thing.
To be clear, I’m talking about being a part of God’s family. And by ‘God’s family,’ I mean it in the sense of Jesus Christ being our brother. God is our Father and Jesus is our brother, with the emphasis on Jesus being our brother. Or, to put another way, Jesus being one of us, a human being.
From God’s perspective, being human is actually a very high honor. I know it doesn’t often feel this way to us. It usually feels like anything but honorable to be human. Look at the way we hurt and disrespect one another, wow we lie and cheat each other. Sometimes it seems there’s be greater honor in being a fish than being human, simply based on how poorly we can treat one another.
But according to Scripture, God holds being human in very high regard.
Psalm 8 begins with a question we can relate to. He asks, “What are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them?” (Ps. 8:4). He acknowledges that by all accounts, we human beings are insignificant in the grand scheme of things. But listen to his very next statement. “Yet you made [us] only a little lower than God, and crowned [us] with glory and honor. You gave [us] charge of everything you made, putting all things under [our] authority” (vv. 5-6).
In talking about the supremacy of Jesus Christ over angels, the author of the book of Hebrews quotes this very psalm in order to establish the high position of being human in God’s eyes. “You gave [us] charge over everything you made, putting all things under [our] authority,” he quotes. But right there in verse 8 he remarks that we haven’t yet seen all things put under [our] authority. What we DO see, however, is Jesus, who for a little while was given a position “a little lower than angels” [meaning, he was made a human being.] And who, on account of destroying the power of death through his crucifixion, is now “crowned with glory and honor” (v. 9). In other words, Jesus THE HUMAN BEING is the fulfillment of this psalm. And through him, you and I are also crowned with glory and honor. The point is, it was through a human being—Jesus of Nazareth—that salvation for sinful humanity was accomplished.
Hebrews 2:11 says, “So now Jesus and the ones he makes holy (that’s us) have the same Father,” and that “Jesus is not ashamed to call [us] his brothers and sisters.” Jesus is our brother, which makes us a part of God’s holy family.
Jesus becoming human was a big deal, which is why we celebrate it every year. But it was more than a big deal; it was actually necessary in order for God to unfold his ultimate plan of salvation. Because the ones in need of salvation were made of flesh and blood, the One who could affect that salvation had to become flesh and blood as well. Why? Because destroying the power of death and the forgiveness of sins requires a blood sacrifice. Verse 14 says, “Only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death. Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying. Therefore, it was necessary for him to be made in every respect like us, his brothers and sisters” (vv. 14-15, 16). It was necessary for him to be a human being.
It’s good to be a part of God’s family. And for many reasons. One, as we’ve acknowledged, is the fact that we’re no longer slaves to sin and death. Jesus broke that chain through his own human death. And along with that, we’re given life eternal.
But there’s one more reason I want to highlight this morning, which brings us back to something I said at the beginning of worship this morning. The name given to Messiah is Immanuel (see Isaiah 7:14). Immanuel means “God is with us.” In Hebrew eem = “with,” anu = “us,” and el = “God.”
Jesus is Messiah, which means Jesus is Emmanuel. Not only was he with us as a human being, Jesus of Nazareth, 2000+ years ago, but as Messiah, he’s with us now, today, in every situation. Think of it this way: When Jesus was sorrowful, he was Emmanuel in sorrow. God is with us in sorrow.
When Jesus was in the boat on the Sea of Galilee in the midst of the storm, it was Immanuel in the storm. God is with us in the storm.
When he was despised and reject by people, was Immanuel in rejection. God is with us in rejection.
The Bible says that as a human being, Jesus experienced every single emotion and situation we’ve experienced. Sorrow, rejection, confusion, temptation, happiness, fear, joy, boredom, anger, bitterness, and so on. If we’ve felt it, he’s felt it. And as Immanuel, he’s with us in and through whatever we’re going to today. If we’re feeling it, he’s feeling it with us. But more importantly, he’s walking with us through it, and when necessary, strengthening us with us presence, the Holy Spirit, so that we can be victorious.
Through the birth of Christ, God stands among us and with us. Through the raising of Christ by two mortals, Mary and Joseph, God shows his faith in us. Friends, the good news is that we are all family in Christ and with Christ, for he is our brother, and we are his sisters and brothers. It’s good to be a part of God’s family! Thanks be to God for this amazing news!