Second Reading (Christmas Day): Hebrews 1:1-6

In Praise of His Name

How was (or is) your worship experience this Christmas day? Was it better than the typical Sunday experience? Why or why not?

Popular Translation

1 In times of old, God spoke to our ancestors through his prophets in many different ways. 2 In these final days, he spoke to us through his Son. God made everything through his Son, so the Son will inherit everything. 3 The Son reveals God’s glory because he is like the stamped imprint of God’s very being. The Son made everything by the power of the word, and forgave everyone of their sins. Now, he sits right beside our majestic God in the highest place in heaven. 4 The Son is so much better than God’s angels because the power found in his name is so much greater than theirs.

5 Did God ever say to an angel: “You are my Son, for today I gave you life” or “I will be a father to this one, and he will be a Son for me”?

6 When God led his first born Son before the entire universe, he said: “Let all of God’s angels worship him!”

Literal Translation

1 Of old, God, having spoken in many portions and many ways to (our) fathers through the prophets, 2 in these last days spoke to us through (his) SON, whom he set as heir to all (things), through whom he made the ages, 3 who, being the radiance of (God’s) glory and (engraved) impression of his substance, indeed bringing forth everything by the power of his word, having made a cleansing of sins, sat at the right (hand) of the Majesty on high, 4 such a (ONE) having become better than the angels, as much as he inherited a name far different (in degree) from them.

5 For to which of the angels did (God) ever say:

‘You are my SON, for today I have begotten you’?

Or, again:

‘I will be a father to him, and he will be a son to me’?

6 Again, when he should lead the FIRST-BORN into the (inhabited) world, (God) says, ‘Let all the angels of God worship HIM.’

1:1-4 This long sentence is the prologue to Hebrews; as such, it contains the major themes of the letter. In 1:1-2, the subject-verb-indirect object of the sentence is “God...spoke to us through his Son.” 1:2a-4 explains who the Son is and what he did:

1:2a tells us the Son was the instrument of creation, so he is the heir to everything in the cosmos.

1:3 is a relative clause guided by the pronoun-verb “who sat at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” (“Majesty on high” is a title for God enthroned in the highest realm of heaven.) Why is the Son enthroned with the Father? The clause lists four reasons. First, the Son reveals the glory of the Father (radiance of his glory). Second, the Son is an imprint of the Father’s being (“engraved impression” referred to a mark made by a tool on leather or stone); in other words, he was the visible image of the invisible God. Third, the Son created everything with the power of the word (God’s word or his own word is unclear). Finally, the Son reconciled all things through the forgiveness of sins.

1:4 states his place in the hierarchy of being, an ancient notion that began with God and descended through all creation, including both benevolent and malevolent spirits. This verse took its queue from the subject-verb of the clause (“who sat at the right hand of the Majesty on high”). In this hierarchy of being, the Son stood higher than all other beings, because his inner power (revealed by his name) was greater than theirs.

1:5 Adapted from Psalm 2:7.

In the opening verses from Hebrews, the author summarized his view of the Christ. In Hebrews, the Son was more than a human mediator before God. The author envisioned the Son as an instrument of revelation than put a human face on the unseen God.

Along with the first chapter of John, Hebrews presented an exalted view of the Christ. The Son of God was unique. Like the Hellenistic-Jewish concept of wisdom, the Son existed with God in the “beginning” of the cosmos. But, unlike that concept, the Son was the instrument of creation. And he was the instrument to reconcile a world broken by sin to God. For these reasons, he now exists with God above all creation.

Like the first chapter of John’s gospel, these verses present Christ from a heavenly view. Theologians call this view “high Christology.” (The study of Christ from his humanity is called “low Christology.”) This view implicitly supports the Christian tenet that the Son of God was divine. As such, he was “above the angels” and worthy of all praise.

As we celebrate this Christmas day, let us remember the place of the Christ child in our world. He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords simply because of the reasons stated in Hebrews. For these and many other reasons, Jesus is worthy of our worship and praise.

Take a few moments out of your Christmas celebrations and give praise to Jesus the Lord, who “sits at the right hand of the Father.”