An angel spoke to shepherds on that first Christmas Day. He gave them a message that spoke volumes about Jesus. The angel said, Luke 2:10 “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”
The Christmas event? A baby would be born in lowly circumstances in Bethlehem.
The Christmas meaning? This child would be a Saviour. He was the Christ, the Messiah or the Anointed One. He was and would be Lord. We look briefly at what those terms mean.
1). Jesus The Saviour. His name indicated His mission; Jesus means “One who saves”. He came to save His people. It was the name given by an angel when Mary was told she was to bear the Christ-child, Luke 1:30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. Joseph her betrothed was also told by an angel to call the infant “Jesus”, and explained that His name signified His role as “Saviour”, Matthew 1:20, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
The word for “save” is (sōzō) which can have the meanings to save, to heal, to preserve, to make whole. It is used more than 30 times in the gospels to describe people being delivered from demons, danger or death. There are about 20 references to spiritual salvation. Others refer to healing such as Mark 5:28, 34 (the healing of the woman with the flow of blood) , Mk 6:56 (the healing of many in the region of Gennesaret) , Mk 10:52 the healing of blind Bartimaeus, and James 5:15 (healing through the prayers and anointing with oil in the name of the Lord, by Christian elders.)
The nouns “sōtērios” (salvation) and “sōtēr” (saviour) were both used with special reference to Jesus. He was the “Saviour” who came to “save” His people and to make “salvation” available to all those who would put their trust in Him. He spoke of His mission as a saving mission to the world, Luke 19:10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” AND John 12:47 If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world.
2). Jesus the Christ. The word “Christ” stems from (chríō) to “anoint”. The noun is “Christos” meaning “the anointed”. The term was used in the Old Testament for those who were anointed for office such as prophets, priest, kings and others. It was also used to describe the coming “Messiah” in prophetic passages in the Old Testament. For example the coming “anointed” one, the Messiah, was spoken of in Isaiah 61 verses 1 and 2, The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; 2 to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favour, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn. Jesus declared that this prophecy had been fulfilled in Himself in Luke 4:16-21. He had read this passage from Isaiah 61 in the synagogue and then added, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
Others recognised Him as the Messiah, the Christ. Andrew said to his brother Simon Peter in John 1:41 “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ)”. Peter himself was later to recognise Jesus as the Messiah, the Christ, as he declared on the road to Caesarea Philippi, Mat 16:16 “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus accepted the veracity of this declaration as He replied, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. A divine revelation had been given to Peter about Jesus. Jesus was the Messiah, the Christ, the Anointed One.
Many have summed up the work of Jesus as the Messiah, as the Anointed One, as the Saviour of the world, using the following terms.
- Jesus has saved us from the Penalty of our sins by His death on the cross.
- He saves us from the Power of sin by the power of his life in us as believers.
- He will save us from the Presence of sin when He returns in glory to take us to be with Him forever.
As one song rightly puts it, “Halleluia, what a Saviour!”
3). Jesus The Lord. The angel said to the shepherds, Luke 2:11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. What did he mean by calling the Christ-child, “the Lord”? How could such a little infant be anything but a tiny vulnerable human?
There had been prophecies in the Old Testament about a child to be born who would be a majestic figure. For example Isaiah 9:6, For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this. Jesus was this promised child. He would become great.
But He had been great from all eternity. In fact John begins his Gospel with the words, John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. He also described later in the same chapter what happened to this “word”; And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14. Jesus the eternal word became a human in the world He had created.
He was Lord, equal with God. But He humbled Himself to become a human so that He might die as a human for humans. But death couldn’t hold Him. He rose from the dead, the victor over death and evil. St Paul put it in graphic language in Philippians 2:5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Jesus IS Lord.
What a wonderful message the angel gave to the shepherds that evening. Only later would they come to realise the immensity of the truth he gave them in such concise words.
We too need to recognise who Jesus is, so that if He were to come in our lifetime, we would cry out with love and adoration and praise, “Welcome, Lord Jesus!” Much better than to say with others who had no time for Jesus in this life, “O dear! He WAS Lord after all!”
Blog 053. Jim Holbeck. Posted on Christmas Eve, 24th December 2011