Sunday, January 08, 2006

Sermon Summary 12.24.05: Messiah

Christians talk quite a bit about the need to emphasize the spiritual meaning of the Christmas season. We deplore comercialization and secularization of the holiday and exhort each other to "put Christ into Christmas." But what does "Christ" actually mean?

Our English word Christ is a transliteration of the Greek word christos, which, in the Bible, is a translation of the Hebrew word mashiyach, which means "anointed one" or "Messiah". mashiyach comes from the verb mashach which refers to putting oil on something, or in a spiritual sense to the act of anointing with oil.

Today, if we used the word in this sense, it is to talk about anointing the sick (James 5:14), but in Old Testament an anointing didn't mean that you were sick but that you were holy. In Bible, holiness doesn't mean that you have a perfect character or have achieved spiritual enlightenment, for how can a temple have a holy character? Being holy means that a person or object is "set apart" for the purposes of God (Ex. 40); it is a calling, not a state of character.

There were many messiahs mentioned in the Old Testament--the priests and kings of Israel, the prophets of God, and even the pagan king, Cyrus. All of them had a holy calling, yet none of them was able to fully live up to the demands of that calling. But there was a prophecy that one day "the Messiah" would come and fully live up to that calling (Dan. 9:25).

That prophecy was fulfilled in the life of Jesus Christ (Luke 4:16-21), and we put Christ into Christmas when we celebrate his arrival. And yet that is not the only way we can or should put Christ into Christmas, because the age of messiahs is not over. The Bible says that we have "an anointing from the Holy One" as well (1 John 2:20-22).

Now that Jesus has gone back to heaven, every member of the "body of Christ" has a holy calling to carry on His work on earth. When we join the church in continuing Jesus' messiah mission, we experience what it means to be a holy. And we discover that putting Christ into Christmas really means putting ourselves into Christ.

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