Christmas in two words
This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about… (Matthew 1:18, NIV)
What was God’s plan for Christmas? It can be summarised in just two words.
This is sometimes held to be a name, but is in fact a title. It’s the Greek for the Hebrew word Messiah, meaning “Anointed One”. It sums up a great line of expectation in the Old Testament, the 39 books of the Bible written before Jesus (and the same as the Hebrew Bible which is kept in synagogues to this day).
Like a “guess the person” picture which slowly de-pixellates, the Old Testament gives us promises, patterns and portraits of a great king whom God is going to send to rule over his people. In about 2,000 BC God picks out Abraham, promising to make him father of a great nation, from whom blessing will come to the world. Over the subsequent generations, this line is narrowed, via Isaac and then Jacob, down to the line of Jacob’s son Judah. Then, about 1,000 BC God promises King David, of the line of Judah, that his royal line will rule for ever. As the centuries tick by, the prophets bring promises of a great servant king who will rescue, rule and serve his people. He will be born in Bethlehem, minister in Galilee, die by judicial execution and rise again. Every time (more than 500 times!) you see the word Christ in the Bible, it is referring to that promised king.
The New Testament tells us that the Christ is Jesus (John 20:31, literal translation), and assembles the evidence for this claim. God has been faithful to his ancient promises and has sent this great ruler into the world.
Now for the other word: the personal name, Jesus. This name derives from the Hebrew for “the Lord saves”. The angel speaks to Joseph about Mary: “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)
Not only does the Old Testament point us to a promised king, but it also points out our need for a saviour. We are shown the nature and extent of human sin, our guilt and our consequent alienation from God. We are shown how this infects human nature, and how we are unable to save ourselves. The track record both of humanity and even of the people of Israel demonstrates this, time and again. But, wonderfully, God also shows how he will provide for sin via a sacrificial system, and demonstrates again and again his willingness to rescue his people in spite of everything. Rescuers are raised up, who are also patterns of the one to come.
The New Testament shows us the life of Jesus and identifies him as that rescuer. His death on the cross as our substitute absorbs the wrath of God our guilt deserves; risen and ascended, he sends his Spirit to live in us and deal with the problem of human nature from the inside. He is at work restoring people, and building them into a world-wide body. A glorious, permanent future, with death conquered, awaits those who trust in Him.
So that’s Christmas in two words: Christ, and Jesus. It’s also the Christian life in two words, for being a Christian simply means responding to those two great truths. As he is Christ, we acknowledge him as Lord and King, repenting of our sin and wanting to live under his authority. As he is Jesus, the Saviour, we do not try to make ourselves right with God but trust him entirely for forgiveness, receive him into our lives and depend on him.
Those two words are the best news in the world!
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