It’s easy to get caught up at this time of year in Jesus the baby – the Creator of the Universe in an animal’s feeding-trough. Wonderful as that is, the book of Hebrews reminds us what we’re really celebrating. Jesus is the new Moses who will lead his people to freedom. He is the true Sabbath who will grant us eternal rest. He is the great high priest who intercedes and makes offering for our sins. Most mysteriously of all, he is Melchizedek, the king of righteousness and peace, a priest forever, who blesses people of the promise.
These encouragements come with some of the sternest warnings in the New Testament. “We are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory” (3:6). “Today if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts” (Psalm 95:7; 3:7 and 15; 4:7. When the Bible says something once it’s worth listening. When it says it twice, have a think about it. When it says it three times in the space of two chapters, drop everything you’re doing). “It is impossible for those… who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace” (6:6).
The Proverbs have a few stern things to say as well. “Good judgment wins favour, but the way of the faithful leads to their destruction” (13:15). What should we do with these little snippets, which on the surface can seem simplistic, or even trite? I’ve found that the best way to read them is with a hot drink in hand. My morning reading lately has looked something like this: Breathe in. Read a proverb out loud: “Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones” (16:24). Breathe in. Breathe out. Take a sip of tea. Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Read another proverb. Repeat until you run out of proverbs (and tea). “Whoever is patient has great understanding, but one who is quick-tempered displays folly” (14:29). Don’t try to understand everything at once when you read the Bible. Think about it, internalise it, and watch how things start to fit together.
- “Today if you hear his voice…” Do you listen out for God’s voice? If you hear him, how will you respond?
- “If we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory…” “Let us hold firmly to the faith which we profess” (Hebrews 3:6, 4:14). How firmly are you holding on to God’s promise? Is there anything you need to let go of?
- “Better a little with the fear of the LORD than great wealth with turmoil” (Proverbs 15:16). How will you put God at the centre this Christmas, ahead of consumerism and family arguments?