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Posted: December 24, 2011 12:00 a.m.

What is God like?

Lots of old expressions sneak into our lives and conversations every day. Ever heard the expression, "The apple doesn't fall far from the tree"? I seem to use that expression a lot these days. It's a handy expression that means the son or the daughter is a lot like the parent. So when a child exhibits a behavior or similarity to one of the parents, I will likely say, "The apple doesn't fall far from the tree."

Another expression that we hear in various forms is "Back in my day" or "When I was growing up." When we hear these, we can guess that what comes next will be something different and even opposite to what is happening or what is proposed. Sometimes you hear these in church in the form of "We've never done it that way before."

I can imagine that the writer of the letter to the Hebrews heard variations of these phrases as he was presenting the news about Jesus to the Jewish believers in the Greco-Roman empire. He tries to help the people understand that God speaks to different people in different circumstances in different ways. When they heard the stories of Jesus, they probably said something like "We've never heard it that way before. What about Abraham?" "Back in the old days," the writer might start, "God spoke to our ancestors one way. But recently, God spoke to us in a different way through a man named Jesus who is God's own son." He reminds the readers that if they want to know what God is really like, then they need to get to know Jesus, God's Son, because "the apple doesn't fall far from the tree."

What about us? We didn't know Jesus when he was here on earth, so how can we know what God is like? Well, if we know what Jesus is like - and we do if we read the Bible - then we will know what God is like because Jesus said, "If you've seen me, then you've seen the Father."

In other words, "the apple doesn't fall far from the tree." When we get to know Jesus through his birth, life, teachings, suffering, death and resurrection, then we will know what God the Father is like Jesus is God the Son. And as we live to be more like Jesus - more loving, more compassionate, more just, more merciful - then we will see, too, that we can know more and more of what God is truly like because we are also children of God, says the apostle. Our hope and prayer is that when people look at us, they can say, "The apple doesn't fall far from the tree."

Jan McCoy is associate pastor of First United Methodist Church of Covington. She may be reached at jan.mccoy@ngumc.net.

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