Viktor Frankl was an Austrian psychiatrist who lived as a prisoner in Auschwitz and other concentration camps during World War II.
Frankl experienced unspeakable horror during his years of captivity, yet during that time he was able to discern the reasons why some people survived the camps and others didn’t. He wrote a famous book, “Man’s Search for Meaning,” in which he identified the reasons why some prisoners survived the death camp and others didn’t:
RELATED: Check out other stories on Christmas, faith and culture here.
“For the prisoner who had lost faith in the future, his future was doomed. With his loss of belief in the future, he also lost his spiritual hold; he let himself decline and become subject to mental and physical decay. … The only chance people had of making it in the camps was their ability to focus on some future goal. It had nothing to do with who was the healthiest or strongest, but who had someone waiting back home for them or who had some vocational goal they dreamed of realizing one day.”
At times, life is dark and ominous.
We’ll probably never face anything as horrendous as Viktor Frankl, yet there’s one anchor that holds us when life hits the fan (and it will): our confidence in God’s character.
It is the hope that rang with stunning clarity on that first Christmas day in the incarnate Christ’s first Advent, and if ever there were reason to celebrate God’s gift, this is it. Hebrews 1:1–4 outlines seven reasons to celebrate this Christmas and every season until the Son returns for His bride:
1. JESUS IS THE AGENT OF THE FATHER’S CREATION.
Jesus created everything, both the material and non-material parts of the universe. His creatorship, along with His sinlessness, is one of the things that really sets Him apart from us. Christ created not only matter, but time and space and energy and matter, and called all of it good.
2. JESUS IS THE RADIANCE OF GOD’S GLORY.
Jesus is the manifestation of God to us. Just as the sun’s rays illuminate and warm the earth, Christ is God’s glorious light that shines into the hearts of the people. And as the sun cannot be separated from its brightness, so God cannot be separated from the glory of Christ. But Christ is distinct in personhood in the same way the sun’s rays are not the sun; Christ is God, but He is not the Father.
3. JESUS IS THE EXACT IMPRINT OF GOD’S NATURE.
Jesus possesses the essential nature or being of God the Father. He has all the attributes that are indispensable to who and what God is, such as immutability (unchangeableness), omniscience, omnipotence and omnipresence. He is the exact stamp or replication of God. The Nicene Creed says He was “very God of very God.” The Greek word translated eikon, from which we get “icon,” means a precise copy or reproduction.
4. JESUS UPHOLDS THE UNIVERSE BY HIS POWERFUL WORD.
He gives cohesion to the universe. He infallibly makes sure that the universe runs as ordered, that it is a reliable unit instead of erratic and unpredictable. When we study science or astronomy or math or physics, we are studying the way in which God upholds His ordered universe, and we are studying truths that are given their truthfulness by the authority of Christ.
The whole universe hangs on His powerful arm, His infinite wisdom, and His ability to control every element and orchestrate the movements of every molecule, atom and subatomic particle. He is the reason the sun isn’t crashing into the earth and the waves aren’t overwhelming the land. We can sleep peacefully at night knowing Jesus is awake and in control of it all.
5. JESUS MADE PURIFICATION FOR SINS.
He was the spotless lamb, our Passover lamb. What the blood of bulls and goats could not do, Christ did (see Heb. 10). As we gloriously sing every Advent season, He was born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth. This is the good news of Easter.
6. HE IS EXALTED AT THE FATHER’S RIGHT HAND.
Christ’s ministry on earth ended after 40 days, after He rose again and later ascended into heaven (Acts 1:9-11). God seated Him at His right hand — the position of power and authority and prominence and preeminence.
He sat down because He was the final priest. He did what no Old Testament priest could do — He sat down because His work was finished. Jesus accomplished the work of redemption on the cross, thus it was appropriate for Him to sit down. He remains at the right hand of the Father, praying for us.
7. HE IS SUPERIOR TO THE ANGELS (4–14).
Having for a time voluntarily taken a position “lower than the angels” (Heb. 2:7), the resurrected and ascended Messiah was “declared the Son of God in power” (Rom. 1:4) to save His people. His exaltation gives Him both a dignity and a rank profoundly higher than the angels. The angels and their service of God’s people are great, but Christ is greater.
Where is your hope?
Remember what Viktor Frankl said? Those prisoners at Auschwitz who survived did so because they had hope. We have the Christ child as a sure and settled hope — a hope that can see us through the darkest night of the soul.
Where is your hope? Is it in church attendance?
Perhaps it’s in your own righteousness? Or maybe it’s in some earthly idol like a full bank account or a lucrative career. Or is it in the One born humble and lowly in a stable, this One the writer of Hebrews describes in the opening four verses of his sermonic epistle.
Joy to the world, the Lord is come. Let earth receive her king!