The true Christian should never take the story of Christ’s birth for granted. Even when reread from the human perspective, the narrative of Christ’s entrance into this world ought to remain forever fresh, fascinating, and awe-inspiring. There’s the amazing appearance of the angel Gabriel to Mary to announce that she would bear God’s Son. There’s the intriguing interaction between Mary and Elizabeth (with a Spirit-inspired response from the unborn John the Baptist) as Mary sought confirmation of Gabriel’s news. Then there is the unprecedented account of the angels’ nighttime appearance to the shepherds right after Jesus was born. And finally, there are the varied and profound responses to the significance of Christ’s birth, from the divinely directed mission of the wise men to Simeon’s Spirit-filled pronouncement at the Temple.
But all those events, as uplifting as they are, come only from the human eyewitnesses. There is another absolutely essential viewpoint of Christ’s birth that we must not omit—God’s perspective. And you find that perspective in the New Testament epistles. The inspired writers of those letters rehearse the birth and life of Christ from God’s vantage. They go beyond the human perspective of the baby in the manger to the divine perspective of His person and work.
The Incarnation in the Epistles
For instance, Romans 1 asserts that Jesus is both the Son of David and the Son of God. Galatians 4:4 says that in the fullness of time God brought forth His Son, born of a woman and subject to the law. Ephesians 3 introduces the concept of the mystery of Christ, that God has now revealed the truth of His Son in human flesh to the Jews and the Gentiles (cf. 1 Timothy 3:16). Philippians 2 teaches us that the second person of the Trinity—the eternal Christ—took on the form of humanity to die on the cross. Colossians 2 makes the sweeping and profound statement that the fullness of the Godhead dwelt bodily in Jesus Christ. But there is one other crowning passage among those that provides divine insight into the person of Jesus Christ—and that is Hebrews 1. We need to understand this passage if we are to have a complete grasp of the significance of Christ’s coming into the world.
God’s Final Word Unveiled
The letter to the Hebrews, written about AD 67–69 by an unidentified author, was obviously written to Jews, mostly true believers in Jesus. Its purpose was to show them that Jesus Christ is in fact the fulfillment of all the Old Testament Messianic promises, and that He is superior to all the pictures, types, representations, and shadows that preceded Him. The epistle was written to assure believing Jews that their faith was rightly placed, and to encourage unbelieving Jews that embracing Jesus was the right commitment to make. Many in the community were intellectually convinced that Jesus was the Messiah and God, but they had not yet personally believed and publicly confessed Him as Lord. They didn’t want to be alienated like their converted friends had been—some of whom had been put out of the synagogue, ostracized by their families, or forced out of their jobs.
In view of those fears and uncertainties, the writer of Hebrews wanted to encourage the Jews that in reality they lost nothing by embracing Jesus and confessing Him as Lord. Anything they might have had to sacrifice in this life was as nothing compared to all that they would gain in full atonement for their sins and complete access to the very presence of God forever. So the writer affirms that the babe born in Bethlehem is the Messiah and that He is indeed the Lord of a New Covenant, which is far superior to the Old Covenant of Moses.
Hebrews 1:1–3 launches right into the purpose of the epistle:
God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.
Here again in a few short verses is an insightful, divine description of who the baby born in Bethlehem really is. It is probably the most concise and comprehensive New Testament summary statement of the superiority of Christ. And the writer includes three key features in composing his classic statement: the preparation for Christ, the presentation of Christ, and the preeminence of Christ. We’ll explore all three of those features in the days ahead, as we examine the divine perspective on Christ’s person and work.
(Adapted from God in the Manger)