Adapted from a Christmas sermonette on Hebrews 2:9-18–
“Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity . . . “
Have you heard of the Moravian Church? The Moravians are a Protestant sect which sprang up around the time of the Reformation. They are more Calvinistic and pietistic than they are Lutheran. This Church, which in our day still has pockets of adherents worldwide, was known among other things for its zealous mission work.
The story is told of a Moravian missionary who was sent to preach the Gospel to slaves in the West Indies in 1732. Upon his arrival the missionary sought to gather a small group of slaves together for worship in the evening hours. Though he succeeded to a degree, he found that for the most part the slaves who came to the meetings were so exhausted that they couldn’t even listen to the Gospel message he wanted them to hear. All they could do was gnaw on their bread crusts before heading out to crawl into their straw beds, waiting for the master’s whip to rouse them at dawn for yet another day of hard labor.
The missionary came up with an idea to reach these poor outcasts from society. He would–and did–sell himself into slavery. Then, while working together with the slaves in the fields, he spoke to them of their Savior, and talked with them of the forgiveness of sins found in the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross.
This missionary became a slave among slaves that he might by all means win some for Christ. In this case, “by all means” meant selling himself into the same bondage and misery in which his would-be hearers lived.
The parallel, which is as striking as it is obvious, is the amazing truth and fact of Christmas–the incarnation of Jesus Christ! Indeed, the story of the missionary is but a dim reflection of the amazing love of Christ for sinners. He who existed from eternity as God took on the nature of a slave and was made in the likeness of men: “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity . . . . For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way . . . ” (Heb. 2:14-17). As the missionary thought he could best reach the slaves by becoming one of them, in an even greater way Jesus Christ did the same thing. Jesus was “made like his brothers” and was “made . . . a little lower than the angels” (v. 7) that He might be made sin for us, and a curse, and then suffer the penalty and wages of sin–death–on the tree of the cross!
The Wonder Of The Incarnation
There have always been those who question the Christian gospel. Why, the skeptics ask, would God make His own unique Son come into this world, and then have Him suffer innocently and die vicariously on a cross. Well, those who understand the miracle and mystery of Christmas–the incarnation of the God-Man–know the answer to such questions: “In bringing many sons to glory it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering. Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers” (Heb. 2:10-11).
Of course, sinners could never ever earn or merit the title of “holy people” or “saints.” But Christ’s mission to earth was to accomplish for sinners what they could never accomplish by themselves: “For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people” (Heb. 2:17).
The mystery and wonder of Christmas is that Jesus was made flesh and blood to deliver us who all our lives were held in slavery by fear of death.
Inasmuch as Jesus was not ashamed to call us His brothers and sisters to deliver us from sin and death, how could we ever be ashamed of owning up to our faith in Him or ashamed of the life of cross-bearing which Christian discipleship includes?
Let each of our lives then take on the drama of that of the Moravian missionary. Living in this land of the shadow of sin and death, we have been brought to see the Light. Now we are privileged to go and share this message of Light and Life with those still in bondage to sin and unbelief.
The Holy Spirit help us to live holy lives–lives worthy of the Christmas miracle that Jesus Christ became our Brother to save us.
–Pastor Paul Fleischer