SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSONS
Commentary by Walter Albritton
December 23, 2007
Key Verse: To you is born this day in the city of
Walter is a splendid young man now. As he matures his memory of many childhood experiences will dim or disappear. But he will never forget the night he fainted while participating in a Christmas pageant in his church. As I recall Walter was playing the part of an angel, or perhaps a shepherd. He had no speaking role. All he had to do was stand there in costume for awhile. He was doing fine until, midway the performance, he keeled over in a dead faint.
Parents and others rushed to his aid. In a few minutes he was fine. He had not hurt himself in falling. I do not remember why Walter fainted. He may have had a touch of the flu. But what all of us remember is that on that night Walter was the star of the show. Nobody remembers who played the roles of Joseph and Mary but everybody remembers the angel who fainted.
In Doctor Luke’s presentation of the Christmas Story angels played a prominent role. Luke wanted his readers to know that the Jesus who had been crucified was the long-awaited Messiah. As such his birth had unusual significance. This was no ordinary child. This was the Son of God whose birth was announced by angels who made it clear that Jewish prophecies were being fulfilled.
The birth of Jesus for Luke was God at work. God “sent” the angels to make their various announcements. It was God, not Joseph, who was responsible for Mary’s pregnancy. The Holy Spirit “came upon” Mary, causing her to conceive the child whose name Jesus was given by angels.
Luke makes sure we understand that Jesus did not “become” the Messiah by living an exemplary life. He was the Messiah in his mother’s womb. He had always existed; the difference now is that he has come to earth in human form as a baby. He was not a great teacher or prophet who was born sometime long ago. He was birthed at the right time in history, in the place designated by almighty God centuries earlier.
Joseph and Mary did not just happen
to be in
Hope streams into this story like light shining in the darkness. God’s Son was not born to royalty within a castle. Joseph and Mary were humble, God-fearing peasants. The shepherds, who heard first the announcement of Jesus’ birth, were ordinary people. And if this is not enough to give common folk hope in God, the angel hammered home the truth that this “good news of great joy” was for “all the people”!
Luke wants us to understand that the baby born to Mary was much more than another baby boy. This was God’s Son. The angel explained to the shepherds that the baby was “a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.” Each of these words has great significance for us.
For centuries the persecuted Jews had been looking for God to send a Deliverer who would save them from their oppressors. The word for this Deliverer in Hebrew is “Messiah.” In the Greek language, the language of Luke’s Gospel, the word “Messiah” is translated “Christ.” So these two words are interchangeable.
“Christ,” therefore, is not the last name of Jesus, as Smith is the last name of John Smith. Both words, Christ and Messiah, are titles reserved for the Son of God, the Deliverer of God’s people. If we were more careful with our words we would say “Jesus the Christ” rather than “Jesus Christ.”
The word “Lord” refers to Yahweh or God the Creator. What Luke conveys is that in the coming of the baby Jesus, God has come. Jesus, then, is Christ the Lord, God come to save his people. Though the name “Jesus” was a common name for Jewish men, Jesus the Christ gave it a new meaning.
In a theological sense the word “Jesus” means “God to the rescue”! When we say “Jesus is my Lord,” we mean that he is not only our Savior but our God, the One to whom we have surrendered all things. We have no other “gods.” We live under what we call his Lordship which means either Jesus is Lord of all things in our lives or he is not Lord at all.
But this lesson is not about semantics. It is about the coming of God into the world, in the flesh of a baby, to deliver us from the Evil One and make us sons and daughters of God. As we hear Luke’s words again and again this Advent season, let us rejoice that the Messiah has come. The Savior has been born. The Lord of heaven has come to dwell among us and convince us by his presence that Immanuel is here! Let us bow down and worship him on the knees of our hearts, then rise up to serve him until he calls us home. Glory Hallelujah! The Lord is come! Joy to the world – and to you and me!
(Contact Walter at firstname.lastname@example.org)