The Name Christ
“For today in the city of David, there has been born for you a Savior who is Christ the Lord.”
On that night, shepherds were gathered together, unaware that everything would change. As they tended to their flock, it started as an ordinary evening, uneventful and nondescript. Yet, unbeknown to them, everything would change, and they would be forever celebrated in the Christmas pageants. Suddenly the calm of the night was interrupted by a dazzling display of God’s glory as an angel stood before. Surrounded by the flaming glory of God, they were terrified. We can only imagine the thoughts that must have swept through their mind as their night went from the mundane to the startling to the terrifying and then to the subline. But the most amazing event was not the appearance of the angel but the announcement he made. The statement that would bring wonder to the world is found in verse 11, “there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
The term Christ means “anointed one.” It is the Greek translation of the Hebrew word Messiah (see John 1:41). The word “Messiah” (or the verb form māšaḥ) is frequently found in the Old Testament in connection with various rituals. It speaks of the ceremonial application of oil upon an individual who was appointed to specific duties. First, it was used to refer to individuals (for example, Aaron) who were to be selected for God’s service. Second, it was used for individuals God anointed to be his agent in a specific task. Third, it was used frequently about the kings who were called by a prophet or priest for their role of being the leader of the people. Last, because of its connection to the King of Israel, it was used of the Messianic king who would come to establish the eternal kingdom of God on earth. In the royal psalms (Psalms written to celebrate Israel’s divinely appointed monarch) it served to point to the ultimate king who would come to reign forever.
Within the Old Testament, there arose the expectation of one coming to reign over the nation of Israel for eternity and bring peace and prosperity to the land. This Messianic King would be a descendent of David and would fulfill the covenant that God made with David that God would establish through David an eternal dynasty (2 Samuel 7). This prophecy and hope was ingrained within every Jew in the land of Israel. From the Priests down to the lowly shepherd, there existed this hope and longing. Consequently, when the angel appeared to proclaim that the Messiah was born, the shepherds would be amazed, not just that he had arrived, but that he had chosen to announce the occasion to the lowly shepherds.
However, the message of the birth of the Messianic King not only had implications for the Jews at that time but also for us. Just as they anticipated the arrival of the Messiah, we also anticipate the 2nd coming of the Messiah. When Christ came in his first advent, he came proclaiming that the Kingdom of God, the long-expected kingdom anticipated in the Old Testament, had arrived. When Christ came, he established the spiritual kingdom we participate in when we accept Christ and allow him to reign in our lives sovereignly. Yet even as we seek to surrender to his spiritual kingdom, we do so with anticipation of his coming physical kingdom. In the second advent, he will come to inaugurate the physical kingdom. Just as the 1st-century Jews placed their hope in the Messiah's coming, we also placed our hope in his 2nd coming. History is not arbitrary or cyclical; it is linear, governed by the sovereign God who will culminate history with the return of Christ. He is not just the Messiah of the Jews; he is our Messiah as well. When we celebrate “Christ”mas we are not just celebrating the birth of the King in the past; we are anticipating the coming of the King in the future.