Tuesday, December 24, 2013
Christmas Eve Sermon: Hebrews 1:6 The Royal Command Performance
Each year, the nervous hopefuls line up, waiting their turn. It might be cold in Cardiff, muggy in Manchester or lovely in London, but they don’t mind. Their eye is on the prize for winning the TV series - the chance to appear in front of the Queen at the Royal Variety Performance. Britain’s Got Talent are still taking applications if you’re bursting to sing or dance for Her Majesty.
This year’s Royal Variety Performance was recently on TV, hosted by John Bishop with Robbie Williams, Gary Barlow, Attraction and Jessie J among other performers. But did you know that the Royal Variety Performance has another, less well known name? It’s also known as the Royal Command Performance - because at the very first one in 1912, King George V had commanded the artists to perform, to benefit a charity. Nowadays someone else organises the acts, but the name has stuck.
In our readings this evening, we heard of a Royal Command Performance. Luke tells us that the angels were singing their song of praise: ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven and on earth peace among those whom he favours!’ But it’s the writer to the Hebrews who tells us how it came about. Here’s what he says in verse 6: ‘And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says, ‘Let all God’s angels worship him.’’
Throughout the letter, the big idea is to show that Jesus is better - better than the sacrifices, better than the priests, better than the old temple. And here in chapter 1, he shows how Jesus is better than the angels.
Some of the first readers were very taken by angels, they were focusing on them. Robbie Williams could have sung his song for them: ‘I’m loving angels instead.’ But the writer flicks through the scriptures to show that angels are great, yes, but they’re nothing compared to the Son.
You see, God never made an angel his Son, he doesn’t speak of the angels as being those who created the world; the angels don’t get to sit at God’s right hand in the place of authority. The Son has the place of authority. The Son is the one in that unique relationship with the Father, begotten not made. The Son is the one the angels worship by Royal Command.
The reason for the worship is clear. Lying in the manger is no ordinary baby. The angel told the shepherds about the Saviour, Christ the Lord, but the writer to the Hebrews makes it even clearer.
This is the eternal Son, the heir of all things, through whom everything was made. That baby lying in the manger is ‘the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being.’ When we look in Jesus’ face, we see God.
Lying in the manger, God’s rescue plan is unfolding. God’s Son has come to save and redeem, to make ‘purification for sins’ by giving his life for us, to bring us to God. No wonder the angels worship. Yet they don’t even receive the benefits of salvation. It wasn’t for the angels he came, but for you and me, we whose sins need to be purified.
So come tonight, to his table. Come and receive the sign of his life laid down - his body broken and his blood shed - for you. And as you come, come in praise at what he has done. Spend your life in worship, in grateful response, as you prepare for eternity with him, where we with worship without end, to the praise of his glorious grace. Amen.
This sermon was preached in Aghavea Parish Church at the Christmas Eve Communion 2013.