I love family traditions. I think one of the reasons this is my favorite time of year is because the holidays are steeped in tradition. Each family will enjoy their own special version of holiday rituals that will bond its members and celebrate the season. My family enjoys its own unique traditions – things like the family football game after Thanksgiving dinner, celebrating “Mikulas” by opening Christmas stockings on December 6, candlelight communion on Christmas Eve, and late nights playing “Mafia.”
For those unfamiliar with the game, “Mafia” begins when each player secretly selects a playing card from the Moderator. The card chosen identifies whether you are a mafia member, police officer, doctor, or townsperson. The game proceeds as the mafia members try to hide their identity by “knocking off” the other players, and the other players try to save their town by seeking out the truth and discovering whom they can trust. There are accusations, presumptions, pleadings, and debate –lively discussions and enthusiastic arguments. There is triumph when perpetrators are caught, and shocked bewilderment when trusted family members are found to be lying and deceitful gangsters. Nice family game, huh? Okay, so maybe you have to be Italian to appreciate the fun.
I was talking with my son-in-law the other day, and we were discussing the book of Hebrews. Though the authorship of this book of the Bible is debated, one thing is clear – whoever wrote the book was intent on people knowing the identity of Jesus. The letter was written to a group of first century Jews at the beginning of the persecution of Christians by the Roman Empire. This group most likely consisted of both believers and seekers of the Christian faith.
The Hebrews were in danger, and insecurity and fear can lead to bad decisions. They were beginning to doubt the truth that would save their lives. There were those who sought to deceive, trying their best to convince the new believers that their trust should be put in things that would only lead to death. When persecution began and hardship prevailed, things they knew were not true seemed reasonable and became very enticing. Hebrews was written as a witness to the truth that the only hope, the only possibility of security, and the only path to salvation is in Jesus.
Is this any different than what we confront today? Even during a season when we are surrounded by the startling and astounding truth that God sent his Son to save our world, we so easily get distracted. There are many deceiving messages to sort through: God can’t be trusted; We have to save ourselves; I’m too sinful to save. The list is long. The lie is clear: Jesus isn’t enough.
The message in Hebrews is as relevant to us today as it was to the Jews of the first century:
“We have a great high priest, who has gone into heaven, and he is Jesus the Son of God. That is why we must hold on to what we have said about him. Jesus understands every weakness of ours, because he was tempted in every way that we are. But he did not sin! So whenever we are in need, we should come bravely before the throne of our merciful God. There we will be treated with undeserved kindness, and we will find help. Hebrews 4:14-16 (CEV)
The truth is clear. Jesus’ identity is revealed, and He not only saves the town . . but the whole world.