“Don’t be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in Bethlehem, the town of David, a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.”
The shepherds in the Christmas story learn three things about the newly born Jesus that banishes their fear. First, they learn that Jesus is Savior. But tell them what else they’ve won, Johny! Secondly, they learn that Jesus is the Christ.
The word “Christ” is the Greek rendering of the Hebrew word “Messiah”. It was a magical word for the ancient Jew, and no doubt, when the shepherds heard that the Christ had been born, this is what caused them to drop everything and run for Bethlehem to see the child.
The Jews had been taught for centuries from their Scriptures that one day, God was going to send to the earth his Christ, the Messiah. The Christ would be more than just a Savior. Saviors were a dime a dozen. God had sent many Saviors to his people over the years to get his people out of this trouble or that trouble. The Christ though would be different. He would deliver them from much more powerful and darker things.
The earliest prophecy of the Messiah is found in the Bible’s third chapter. No sooner had Adam and Eve rebelled against God and bowed their knees to Satan, no sooner had the curse of sin begun to take root in the earth – bringing all its ugliness and hatred and suffering – than God promised he would one day send someone crush the serpent’s head and rescue us from its evil. (Though in so doing that person would have his own heel bruised. The Messiah would suffer somehow in order to deliver us.)
From that first cryptic reference, other prophecies were spoken of the Christ, and each one filled in a few pieces of the puzzle. He would descend from the tribe of Judah. He would come from the line of King David. He would be born in Bethlehem. He would minister extensively in the Galilee region of Israel. He would have incredible healing powers. But he would be rejected by his people. He would be betrayed for 30 pieces of silver. And he would suffer a horrible death. His hands and his feet would be pierced somehow. Wicked men would gamble for his clothing. He would die alongside common criminals, but would be laid in the grave of a wealthy man. And the reason he would die in this way was to pay for the sins of the world. His death would be a direct assault on the power of evil.
All these details were foretold hundreds of years before Jesus was born, details describing what the Messiah, the Christ would do. And Jesus fulfilled each and every one of them.
Can you understand why the shepherds’ every fear evaporated when they heard the angel say, “The Christ has been born”?
- Because he’s the Christ, then he’s the one who can do something about my greatest problem, which is my sin. I don’t need to just be saved from money problems, sickness, and ornery relatives. I need to be saved from the evil and self-centeredness that’s in me. Sin is the greatest root of all the fear that’s in me. It tears me apart from the inside out, it damages my relationships, and separates me from God. The Christ was sent to rescue me from all this by providing for me forgiveness for my failures and power to live a new life.
- Because he is the Christ, he can take away my greatest fear – the fear of death. The reason we fear danger is because it carries with it the risk of losing our lives. The terrorism of death keeps us from embracing life. But what if we knew for certain that death cannot snuff us out? That death is just a segue, a doorway, to real life? Because Jesus is the Christ we can know this for certain. “I am the resurrection and the life,” he promises those who follow him. “He who believes in me, though he dies, yet shall he live.”
- And because Jesus the Christ, he also can fulfill my greatest longing, which is to know my Maker and God. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life, no one can come to the Father, can come to God, except through me.” And this: “He who has seen me has seen the Father.” Do you want to know what God is like? Then look at Jesus the Christ. Do you want to follow God? Then follow Jesus the Christ. Do you want to worship God? Then worship Jesus the Christ. Do what the shepherds did. Drop everything and run to bow before him.