Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. Hebrews 10:23 NRSV
How difficult it must have been for the early Jewish converts to Christianity. They were subject to persecution from the Romans, and even their own kinsmen. Concerned that this could cause them to turn back to their Jewish beliefs and rituals, as some were already wavering in their faith, not joining their congregations for worship, the author’s exhortation was to hold fast to their baptismal hope, renew their faith in Jesus, and to encourage each other.
To reinforce this new covenant, the author uses the analogy of Jesus as the loving way into the presence of God for Christians, just as the High Priest in the Temple entered through the curtain, to the Holy of Holies—the presence of God. This comparison reminded them that through Jesus’ death on the cross their sins are forgiven. They now have eternal life, because Jesus is the full sacrifice, once for all time—unlike the yearly animal sacrifices for forgiveness of sin in their former Jewish faith.
I feel a deep compassion for their plight. In contrast, my conversion from Judaism to Christianity in this modern era, and my choice to worship in the Anglican tradition, in a free country, cannot compare to the experiences of the early Jewish converts. I had a strong history of the Christian religion to learn from, an established church to join, supportive, practicing, and believing Christians, who rejoiced at my conversion; and I did not suffer persecution.
This Advent let us pray for an end to religious persecution in our world.