Luke 2:8–11
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.

Matthew 16:15–16
“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

John 11:27
“Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”

Acts 2:36
“Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”

In 1741, over a period of less than four weeks, George Frideric Handel wrote his magnificent oratorio Messiah.  Originally performed around Easter, the oratorio has become a staple of the Christmas season.  Messiah covers the story of our Lord Jesus Christ from prophecies of his coming, through his birth, life, and death, his resurrection, and concludes with him seated in glory.  It is truly an astounding and uplifting piece of music.

“Messiah” is the English translation of the Hebrew word “moshiach”, which means “anointed one”.  The Greek word for “anointed one” is “Christ”.  That is why some translations of the Bible use the term Messiah while others use the term Christ.  But what is significant about the Messiah, the anointed one?  Why did the angels announcing the birth of Jesus say that he is the Messiah?

In the Old Testament, God set apart certain people by anointing with oil.  Prophets (I Kings 19:16), priests (Exodus 29:7), and kings (I Samuel 16:13) were anointed with oil.  The Old Testament prophesied the coming of a servant of God (Isaiah 42:1-9) who would be a prophet like Moses (Deut. 18:18-19), a priest like Melchizedek (Psalm 110:4), and a king like David (Ezekiel 34:24).  The angels were telling the shepherds and us that the promised one had arrived!  This unique person—promised, anointed, and sent by God—was now here!  The hopes and fears of all the years were indeed met in little Bethlehem that night, with the birth of “Christ, by highest heaven adored, Christ, the everlasting Lord!” (Charles Wesley)

Christ is not Jesus’ last name.  It is the acknowledgment that he is the anointed one, the Messiah.  That is why Simeon, told by the Holy Spirit that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah, when he met the baby Jesus said that he could now go, because he had seen the salvation promised by the Lord (Luke 2:25-32).  As G.K. Chesterton wrote, “Christ was not a being apart from God and man, like an elf, nor yet a being half human and half not, like a centaur, but both things at once and both things thoroughly, very man and very God.”

Will you sing with Handel and earthly choirs, and with the heavenly choir of angels, that Jesus is the Messiah, and will you give glory to God in the highest?  I pray that you will, now and forever.

Silent night, holy night!
Shepherds quake at the sight.
Glories stream from heaven afar
Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia,
Christ the Savior is born!
Christ the Savior is born!

(Joseph Mohr)

Angels from the realms of glory, 
wing your flight o’er all the earth; 
ye who sang creation’s story 
now proclaim Messiah’s birth: Come and worship, come and worship, 
worship Christ, the newborn king.

(James Montgomery)

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