The first twelve chapters of Hebrews focuses on theology, the necessary doctrines on which believers base their daily living. Chapter 13, referencing Old Testament practices, may seem like a jumble of ideas. Though we do not know the exact ideas that were threatening the church of that day, the writer presents encouragement for sound living as Christ followers and for a faith that shapes that living.
What constitutes your reservoir of strength when life is hard and your stamina is weakened? I often find renewed strength in my family. They were people of dignity who earned their way and believed in God. Their faith was never showy, but it was firm. Their strength has become my strength.
We sometimes struggle with Hebrews because it is laced with the imagery and events of the Old Testament, foreign to our day. As you study this complex and encouraging book, remember that God is the same in both testaments and his grace is our consistent hope.
Sitting in a woman's office, I noticed she had a pretty picture of a cross on a rugged hilltop, but instead of signs of crucifixion, the cross was elaborately draped in flowering vines with butterflies floating about. When I asked if she was a Christian, she said, “Yes, but the idea of Jesus dying on a cross was not part of her church's beliefs – because God is love!”
Considering the span of biblical writings over the history of our world, it is amazing to watch God's love and grace remain unchanged in spite of humanity's embrace of selfishness and pride. Hope is never impossible when God is involved.
Consider the story of Naaman, supreme commander of the armies of Aram (Syria), who enjoyed the complete trust of his king and had defeated the army of Israel, among others. But Naaman faced a considerable enemy he could not defeat: he had leprosy.
John's Gospel does not begin with the Bethlehem narrative, instead laying a theological foundation reminiscent of the creation poetry found in Genesis 1:1-2:3. John understands that Jesus' appearance on earth is the continuation of God's original plan to love and bless the human race.
The problem with Christmas is we know the story too well. We have seen the lavish details year after year in movies, on concert stages and in magnificent works of art. But once in a while we catch the real magic of that moment in Bethlehem when eternity and this physical world witnessed the incomparable act of God.