We begin with a too-literal rendering of one of the most masterful openings in all literature, Hebrews 1:1-2.
In many parts and in many ways God having of old spoken to the fathers in the prophets, at the last of these days spoke to us in Son, whom He appointed inheritor of all things, through whom also He made the ages....God's revelation of Himself was in many parts, in that no one revelatory event was exhaustive. God did not disclose all of Himself nor all of His plan to Adam at his creation; nor to Adam and his wife at their fall; nor to Noah at his commissioning; nor to Abraham at his call. Each received a portion of revelation, but not the whole of it.
Further, this revelation was in many ways. Now a voice but no form; now a hovering flame and smoke; now a dream; now a vision; now a holy war, a miracle, a plague, a code of laws, a sacrificial system — these, and many more, were the array of forms that God utilized in beginning to make Himself known.
But all of it was God, who had spoken to the fathers in the prophets. Though incomplete, it was all intelligible to them, because it was addressed to them. However, though intelligible, it was incomplete. It was sloping upward, as it were, heading for a climax. What was that climax?
That climax was brought about by revelation of the same God, but it came not of old, nor to the fathers. The summit has arrived at the end of these days. It has come to us. It has come in Son.
Translators despair of capturing the meaning of those two words, ἐν υἱῷ, in Son. They are almost adverbial in force, in that they describe the manner of God's speaking at these end times. It is not in many parts, it is not in many ways. It is in one who is Son, it is Son-wise, it is an in-Son kind of revelation.
But they also single out the locus of God's revelation: it is not in a thing, nor an event, nor an institution, nor in words alone. It is in a person — but not just any person. Not a mere prophet, nor a bright angel. The locus of God's final revelation is in one who is most fundamentally and essentially Son.
And this is God's final word. This is what God has to say: Jesus, the Son! Jesus in His miraculous conception, His miraculous life, His miraculous words and deeds. Jesus, in Himself not destroying the variegated Law and the various Prophets, but fulfilling them all to the utmost. Jesus, the Logos, the Word who reveals His Father. Jesus in His abandonment, His death, His resurrection. Jesus reaching out to sinners in the preaching of His Gospel.
Jesus constitutes God's final word, His final revelation. "Final" both in the sense that (unlike the Old) it will never be superseded, but also "final" in the sense that it is complete, and that it constitutes a crisis.
This revelation is a crisis in that we must deal with Jesus. If we would look impatiently past Him, restlessly cast about here and there, we shall find no other word from God — except for a word of final judgment, of final rejection, of final condemntation. F. F. Bruce well says in his commentary, "The story of divine revelation is a story of progression up to Christ, but there is no progression beyond him" (46).
That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown — or Andy American, or Bob Briton, Artie Australian, or whoever you may be. Christmas is about God wrapping all He has to say in one person, the person of one who is — not a prophet, not a sign, not a shadow, not a vision, not a dream, not a type, but — His Son.
Now you've heard it. Would you like to see it? Read Luke 9:29-36, for a vivid enactment of this very truth. Two men, representing the Law and the Prophets (which is to say, the entire Old Testament), appear with Jesus in the mount. Jesus shines with brilliant glory (cf. Hebrews 1:3). Just as Peter proposes three equal tents for the three majesties, a cloud overshadows all. The Father speaks:
And when the cloud departs, Jesus alone is left. God has spoken in one who is Son.
God grant us ears to hear, this Christmas — and God grant that there be more of us who hear.