CHRISTMAS THOUGHTS

THE NAMES OF THE CHRISTMAS CHILD - 2

Last week we looked at the names of Jesus recorded by Matthew. Most of these are repeated by Luke, but with different or expanded information.

The Son of the Most High, the Son of God

Luke 1:32: 'He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.'
Luke 1:35b: 'So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.'

In between these two affirmations of the divine sonship of Jesus Christ Luke records the deep mystery of the incarnation and the deep mystery of the virgin birth. This child  is the 'Son of God' in two distinct ways: firstly he is the Son of God because that is his eternal identity [read John 17:5; Romans 9:5; 1 John 5:20], and it is this eternal, divine Son who is about to take on human flesh; secondly, he is the Son of God because he has no human father: he was conceived in the womb of the virgin Mary by a unique divine intervention: 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you [Luke 1:35a].

This fulfils Genesis 3:15: that it would be the seed of the woman who would one day destroy the evil one. It also fulfils  Isaiah 7:14: that a virgin would conceive and bear a child. Because of this virgin birth Luke calls this Child 'the holy one'. While it is true that he is 'holy' because he is the eternal Son of God, Luke makes the point that he is 'the holy one' because of his miraculous conception in a virgin: He is not contaminated by 'original sin' - he does not inherit the sin-nature passed on through the paternal line. [Read Romans 5:12-21]

Luke's emphasis on Jesus as the Son of God also points to the word of Isaiah 9:6 that 'a child' would be born and 'a son' would be given to us. Here again the mystery of the incarnation confronts us: Jesus Christ is 'a child' - an ordinary human child, but he is also 'the Mighty God', he is also the 'everlasting Father'; he is also the eternal king of an everlasting kingdom [read Isaiah 9:7].

A horn of salvation, a Saviour, your salvation

As we saw last week, the name 'Jesus' means 'God saves'. Luke expands on this concept by reporting [1] Zechariah's reference to the as yet unborn Jesus as 'a horn of salvation' [Luke 1:69] and his reference to redemption, mercy, covenant, forgiveness and rescue that will come through and because of Jesus; [2] the angel's announcement to the shepherds that 'a Savior has been born to you' [2:11]; and Simeon's joyful prayer as he held the Child 'my eyes have seen your salvation which you prepared in the sight of all people' [2:30]. The prophetess, Anna, while not using these specific names, also connected the Child with salvation [2:38].

The Christ

By referring to the child as 'Christ' [2:11,26] Luke teaches us that he is the long expected Messiah. This Messianic identity is also contained in Luke's references to Jesus' connection with the throne, house or line of David [1:32,69; 2:11], Jesus reigning [1:33], and Jesus' eternal kingdom [1:33].

The rising sun, a light for revelation

Jesus himself claimed to be 'the light of the world' [John 8:12], and described his incarnation by saying 'Light has come into the world' [John 3:19]. Luke anticipates these affirmations by recording the words of Zechariah 'the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace' [1:78,79] and Simeon  'a light of revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel' [2:32]. By the coming of this Child spiritual darkness is dispersed, ignorance of God is replaced by knowledge of God. To see this Child is to see God. To know this Child is to know God. Because of this incarnation we need no longer ask 'What is God like?' Here in this Child our questions are answered. [Read John 12:44-46; 14:6-9]

 My Lord

Luke, like Matthew refers to Jesus as 'the Lord' [Luke 1:17,76; 2:11]. He also reports Elizabeth's reference to Mary as 'the mother of my Lord' [1:43]. The Christmas child is as yet unseen and unheard - only partly formed within the womb of Mary. He has performed no miracles. He has made none of his absolute and exclusive claims. He has issued no challenges. He has made no promises. He is powerless. He is confined. He is silent. He is totally incognito. Yet Elizabeth calls him 'my Lord'.

In a moment of divine enlightenment Elizabeth knew  that this moment, this encounter, this proximity to this incarnation, was a moment of unique and awesome grace [1:41-43]. She said 'why am I so favored ...?'

Even so may we ask 'Why am I so favored?' -  and in that same awareness, confronted by this incarnation, over-awed by that same grace - may we also acknowledge this Christmas Child as 'my Lord'.

Copyright Rosemary Bardsley 2007