Well, let me say again how glad we are to welcome you all to First Presbyterian Church this evening. We do want to be good hosts while you are here with us, and if you look around you will see some folks wearing name badges like this one. It's an invitation to you, if you're a visitor tonight or if you find you have questions, to come and speak to us. We do look forward to meeting you. As Cory mentioned, he will be in the back; I will be down front at the end of the service. Please do come and introduce yourself. It would be our pleasure to get to know you a little better.
On Sundays during this Advent season, we have been looking at some of the names and the titles the Bible gives to the Lord Jesus. And tonight, we're going to be thinking about the name the angel gave to Jesus when he appeared in the skies over the shepherds near Bethlehem. So if you would, take a Bible in your hands - you'll find them in the pew racks in front of you - and turn with me to page 857 where you will find the words of Luke's gospel, chapter 2. In just a moment we're going to read the first seventeen verses together. Before we do, would you bow your heads with me as we pray together. Let's pray.
O Lord, we pray for the ministry of Christ who is the Light of the world, the true light who gives light to every man who came into the world. We ask that His light may dawn in our hearts by the Holy Spirit so that we may see Him and know Him and rest upon Him as He is offered to us in the Gospel. For we ask it in Jesus’ name, amen.
Luke chapter 2 at the first verse. This is the Word of God:
“In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger because there was no place for them in the inn. And in the same region, there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.' And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is
When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.’ And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child.”
Amen, and we praise God for His holy Word.
There were certain traditions that were staples of our family Christmas celebrations when I was a boy growing up in the east end of Glasgow, Scotland. One of the worst was the annual Christmas sweater. My aunt would always buy my brother and me a woolen sweater. Now, these were not comedy sweaters, you understand, with silly Santas and the like on them. I could have coped with a comedy sweater given in jest. No, these were the kind of sweaters always given in earnest that mum felt needed to be worn whenever our aunt came to visit. And they were awful, scratchy, hairy abominations with bright primary colors in mad, abstract designs! This was the 80s, you understand, and these things were a sight to see. Of course, I still had last year's sweater, languishing unworn in a drawer somewhere, but since it was Christmas there would always be yet another, carefully wrapped, waiting under the tree. That was just the order of things you see. It wouldn't have been Christmas without it. Had my aunt done anything else - had she bought me a toy car or a book to read - we'd all have wondered what was wrong. This was her role; this was her appointed task. She was the sweater lady and it wouldn't have been Christmas without the sweater lady!
When the angel appeared overhead, and according to verse 9, scared the daylights out of the poor shepherds that first Christmas night in Bethlehem, I want you to notice the name, the title really, that he gave to the baby he announced had just been born; you see there in verse 11. Look at verse 11, “For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Jesus is the Christ, the angel says. Christ isn’t Jesus’ surname. Were you to look Him up in the Bethlehem phonebook, you’d find Jesus listed probably as Jesus Bar-Joseph; that’s His name. Christ is His title. Christos, in Greek, which actually is a Greek translation of a Hebrew word, “Mashiah” - and both the Greek word transliterated into English, “Christ,” and the Hebrew word transliterated, “Messiah,” they both have the same meaning. They mean, “Anointed One.” That’s Jesus’ title, right? He is the Anointed One. And all I want to do with you tonight is think about the meaning of that title. What does it mean that Jesus is the Anointed One?
The Anointed One
I'll bet you're wondering why I told you about my aunt and the sweater, aren't you? Well, the reason that I told you about my aunt and her much-dreaded but absolutely non-negotiable role at Christmastime is because I wanted to try and find a way to communicate a very basic idea embedded in this concept of the Anointed One. Those ghastly sweaters were my aunt's appointed role, you see. That was her job at Christmastime; her special purpose. No one else bought them, only her. It would not have been Christmas without those hairy, scratchy monstrosities. She was the dreadful sweater lady. At the heart of the concept of the Anointed One is the very simple idea of being set apart for a unique, special purpose. Only this person can fulfill that role; this was their appointed task. That's the big idea.
In the Old Testament scriptures you may know people, sometimes even objects like the altar in the temple, for example, they were anointed with oil. Oil was poured on them as a way to designate them and set them apart for a special role, a special task, a special work. They were consecrated to this sacred function before God and the people. It's their special purpose. In the Old Testament scriptures, you probably know there were three classes of people in particular who were anointed. The first category were the priests. Exodus 28:41 God tells Moses to anoint Aaron and his sons and "ordain them and consecrate them that they may serve Me as priests." So to be anointed as a priest was to be ordained and consecrated and set apart as a priest. Exodus 40:14, "Their anointing shall appoint them to a perpetual priesthood throughout their generations." So that's what anointing meant; that's its significance. If you belonged to the tribe of Levi and to the lineage of Aaron, you would be anointed with oil at your ordination to the priesthood. It was a solemn sign of being consecrated and set apart for the work of sacrifice in the temple, to make atonement for the sin of the people. They were ordained to intercede on the people's behalf with God; to plead with Him for them in prayer. That was their special work and they were anointed and set aside for that unique task.
Then the second class of people - I wonder, I’m sure you can guess who they are - there are priests, then there were prophets; prophets were anointed. First Kings 19, God told the prophet Elijah, “Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint to be prophet in your place.” So how is the transition to take place? Well, Elisha would be anointed by Elijah and he would assume Elijah’s duties as the prophet. He’d been anointed and set apart for this prophetic ministry. Prophets were set aside by God to speak the Word of God to the people. Occasionally, as the Scriptures demonstrate, they will predict things to come by divine inspiration and revelation. But most often, instead of foretelling, they were in the business of forthtelling, of divinely inspired preaching of applying to the consciences and the hearts of the people of God the Word of God and calling them back to faithfulness to God’s covenant. And like the priests, they were anointed as part of their ordination to office and to the special ministry the exercised.
Priest and prophets and then the third category - can you guess? I'm asking you, "Who were the third category?" Kings! Well done! Prophets, priests, and kings. Kings were anointed for their unique function in Israel. First Samuel 16 at verse 13, the prophet Samuel anoints David to be king of Israel. That text is actually of particular interest and help here because it tells us a little bit more about the significance of the symbol of the pouring out of the oil on the person being anointed. Listen to 1 Samuel 16 at verse 13, "Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him, David, in the midst of his brothers. And the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon David from that day forward." The image of the anointing with oil, when people were being set apart to sacred office, was meant to convey the special enabling and the supply of the Holy Spirit that God would give to them in order that they might fulfill their work and their ministry.
Alright, so do you see the fundamental idea of anointing in the Old Testament scriptures? It is the idea of being set aside for this special office or work of prophet, priest or king. Their anointing symbolizes divine appointment and the gift of the Spirit of God to sustain and enable them.
But a careful reading of the Old Testament scriptures will go on to make plain to us that the people of God are looking for one particular anointed one amongst all the others who will do a unique work among them, to whom all the others who are anointed really are designed to point us; one who would be a prophet like Moses, a priest greater than Aaron, who would be a king who would rule from David's throne forever. So, for example, in Psalm 2 - we quoted from it this morning if you will remember - Psalm 2, David speaks of the "Lord and his anointed" - His Messiah, His Christ. He will be, the psalm says, "the Son of God, whom the Father installs in Zion as King." Or Isaiah 61:1-2, Isaiah prophesies the coming of a figure, the servant of the Lord, who when He comes shall say, "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, the opening of the prison to those who are bound, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn."
So the Old Testament is looking for one particular anointed one, set apart by God the Father Himself, anointed with the Holy Spirit without measure who would combine in Himself the ministries of prophet and priest and king. The perfect prophet who would reveal God and proclaim His Word with unique clarity and fullness and power. The perfect priest who would offer Himself as the true and atoning sacrifice for sin, once and for all, and effectually intercede on behalf of His people. The perfect king who would reign at the right hand of God until His enemies were made a footstool for His feet.
Now back to Luke chapter 2. In light of all that background, do you sense something of the enormity of the angel’s words when the angel identifies the baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and laid in a manger? When the angel says to the shepherds, “This baby is the Christ; here He is at last,” that was an astonishing message. That’s why just a few chapters on, in Luke chapter 4, we read of an adult Jesus now preaching in the synagogues on the Sabbath Day. His text? Isaiah 61:1-2, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me because He has anointed Me to proclaim good news to the poor.” And then Luke tells us Jesus rolled up the scroll and He sat down and with every eye upon Him, He gave His exposition of Isaiah’s prophecy. Here’s Jesus’ sermon. It is the most perfect sermon ever preached. He said simply, “Today, this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing. The one the prophet spoke about is here. I’m here. You look at Me, you see the Christ, the Anointed One. I’ve come!” He is the living exposition of that text. He is the sermon in Himself. The Anointed One upon whom the Spirit of God rests because He has been set apart, anointed and ordained by God, for us and for our salvation.
Or again later on, after Jesus ascends to glory in the book of Acts chapter 4, there's a wave of persecution unleashed against the church because of the preaching of the Gospel. And instead of retreating or praying that God would deliver them from persecution, the church gathered together and held a prayer meeting. And they prayed the words of Psalm 2 that we quoted earlier on that spoke about the Anointed One. And they interpret the rage and the malice of the rulers against their message about Jesus Christ in light of Psalm 2. And so they quote it in prayer back to God. "Why do the Gentiles rage and the peoples plot in vain, the kings of earth set themselves and the rulers are gathered together against the Lord and against His anointed one? For truly in this city, there were gathered together against Your holy servant, Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate along with the Gentiles and all the peoples of Israel to do whatever Your hand and Your plan had predestined to take place." Jesus, the early church understood, was the Anointed One. The Father had anointed Him having predestined all that took place in His life and ministry, His obedience, His sufferings, His death, and His glorious resurrection.
That means - here’s what all of that means, as Charles Spurgeon helpfully put it - that means that “our Lord was not an amateur savior who came down from heaven upon an unauthorized mission.” Right? He’s not an amateur savior who came down from heaven on an unauthorized mission. No, He is the Anointed One. God the Father has sent Him on His mission. He’s been appointed and ordained and set apart for this special work. Think about the angel’s message to the shepherds that night. You remember what He said to them? “Unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” The angel is telling them, “Here are the implications of this baby being the long-awaited Christ, the Anointed One, come at last among us.” First, the angel says, because he is the Christ, anointed, ordained by the Father, He is a Savior. “Unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, Christ the Lord.” He was sent by the Father on His mission, equipped by Him for His task, set apart and filled with the Spirit. No one else could do His work. No earthly prophet could reveal God with such fullness and clarity as “the Word who was with God and who was God” could make Him known to us. No earthly priest could, by all his prayers and all the blood of bulls and goats poured out every single day on the temple altar, take sin away. Every single earthly king, descended from David, stumbled and fell and sinned and died. None of those who had been anointed up till now could ever save us from our sin; none of them.
And for that matter, none of us could save ourselves from our sin. There’s no way for us to grow into the qualifications necessary to make atonement and satisfy the just judgment of God against us. There’s no amount of learning to which we might attain somehow sufficient for us to penetrate by our own intellect to a saving understanding of the mysteries of God. There’s no strength of will or of arm that we might cultivate, adequate to equip us for lordship and for kingly rule; not even in our own private worlds. All the anointed ones of the Old Testament scriptures couldn’t save; they merely point forward to Jesus. All our best efforts to rescue ourselves are utterly futile. They merely make our desperate need of Jesus clear. No, we must have the One God has ordained, the One God has set apart, to whom He gave His Spirit without measure if we’re to have any hope of all of deliverance from sin and death and judgment.
But listen, here is an anchor for the faith of every child of God. Here is an antidote to fear and doubt and spiritual uncertainty. Here is it. Because He is the Christ, the Anointed One, Jesus is a perfectly sufficient Savior. That’s what it means. That’s what the angel says. He’s been ordained by God the Father and fully qualified to do what no one else ever could. Only He could do it and He is perfectly qualified for the job. He is the Christ, the Anointed One. Because He is the Father’s Son, sent on His mission by the Father Himself and anointed by Him for His work, because both Christ’s cradle and Christ’s cross were the Father’s idea, you see, there’s no possibility that Christ’s work might fail, none. There’s no question that the offering He made of Himself at the cross might not be accepted on your behalf. There’s no way that His obedience and blood would not satisfy for all your sins. Because He was anointed by the Father, Jesus Himself could say at the cross, with absolute surety, “It is finished. The work is done. Satisfaction for sin is made. The debt is paid. It’s accomplished.” And now we can sing, “Nothing in my hand I bring; simply to Thy cross I cling.” And when we do, we can know with equal confidence that the cross of Jesus Christ, the work of Jesus the Anointed One, is a perfectly sufficient offering for all our sin. We are accepted and forgiven and beloved and adopted because Jesus is the Christ, sent and ordained and anointed by the Father Himself. That’s good news.
And then finally, because He is the Christ, the angel says, He must be Lord. "Unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." Actually, the Greek says He is Christ-Lord; He is Christos-Kyrios. It's an unusual, really an unprecedented combination of titles. Kyrios, you may know, is used in the Greek Old Testament to translate the divine name, the name for "God." It's part of what makes the angel's words here so stunning. He means to say more than simply that Christ will be a Lord, a King, a great Man. He means this baby is "Ho Kyrios" - He is, "The Lord" sent by the living God, the one the Father designated and ordained to secure our rescue. The Anointed One is His Son. It was the Lord, born of a virgin and laid in a manger that night in Bethlehem, the infant Jesus. In the infant Jesus, two natures were joined together in indissoluble union - God and man.
And because He is Lord, He is Lord, because He is, He must be Lord. You must take Him as Lord. You must surrender to Him as Lord. "This Savior," the angel says, "Christ the Lord, is born unto you." That's a lovely expression if you think about it. Here are the shepherds out in the fields; these people were not generally held in high regard in society. "He's unto you; He's for you. This Christ, the God-Man ordained by the Father, a perfectly sufficient Savior able to save to the uttermost all who come to God by Him, He's for you. For you, if you would have Him. He's for you." No wonder the angelic choir split the skies with their praises at the announcement of our Savior's birth. "Glory to God in the highest," they sang, "and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased." Heaven bursts in wonder and adoration at the birth of this child. The Christ has come and He is for the lowest and the least, an all-sufficient, perfectly qualified, utterly sufficient and adequate Savior sent on His errand by the Father so that there is no possibility that His saving work might fail. Which means you can trust Him. You can have utter confidence in Him to be to you a perfect Rescuer and Redeemer and Lord. The Father has given us an indescribable gift in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. He's yours for the taking. He's born unto you this day. Have you taken the gift of the Christ, a Savior, Lord?
Let’s pray together.
Our Father, we’ve sung songs about the birth of Jesus at this time of year all our lives. We know the story and we confess how easily the details blur amidst tinsel and Christmas lights and become just part of the Christmas atmosphere. Would You help us tonight to feel something of the wonder, of the awe, shared by angels and shepherds alike at the announcement that this baby is the Christ, the one uniquely qualified and equipped to save us, to do for us what we could never do nor anyone else could ever do - deliver us from our sin and reconcile us to You. Give to us renewed wonder to join the angelic choir in giving glory to You. And we pray for those that we love who do not know that wonder and joy of sin forgiven through the baby of Bethlehem and the man of Calvary. We pray for those around us, perhaps even some here right now, who do not know Jesus. O Lord, show them the need of their heart utterly and perfectly met, the need of their soul to be reconciled to God, only in Jesus Christ and draw them to Him. Use us, please, this Christmas as we gather over presents and over Christmas dinner, as we enjoy one another, as we rejoice with friends and family, use us to speak for Him, to herald Him, to proclaim with wonder and joy in our hearts and in our voices that there is born unto you this day a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. For we ask this in Jesus’ precious name, amen.
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