Angelic Name-Calling

"The Angel said to them...

Today in the town of David a

Savior has been born to you;

he is Christ the Lord."

Luke 2:11 It has been said that some have an ability to take simple things and make them complex, while good communicators take complex things and make them simple.

As we celebrate Christmas 2018 and look forward to Christ’s work in 2019, I’m glad that the living God is a Communicator who not only makes the complex simple, but also has shown it through the Incarnation (the doctrine that God became a living person!).

During this Advent season, I am particularly struck by the announcement of the Angel to the Shepherds about this particular child born in Bethlehem; “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born … he is Christ the Lord.” The Angel, with succinct simplicity, gives three broad and meaningful Christological titles for the Christ child.

First, the Angel calls this child a “Savior”. If he is a Savior then what does this mean? Is he a Savior in terms of economics – that we will be healthy, wealthy, and wise? Is Christ a Savior politically? Anne Lamott likes to say; “You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates the same people you do.” Is this child a Savior that is simply an ideal to live by? Is Jesus Christ merely a good religious example, perhaps similar to the Dali Lama, Buddha, or some other religious leader?

I’m reminded of another angelic visitation in Matthew’s Gospel as the Angel tells Joseph that Mary’s child will be called Jesus, “because he will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). Theologians for centuries have marveled over the heights and depths of Christ’s offer of salvation but this remains true; Jesus saves us from both the universal phenomenon and personal responsibility of sin. As we celebrate Christ coming at Christmas, I stand in wonder that “he who knew no sin became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God,” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Second, the Angel tells us that the child will be called “Christ”, a Greek name rooted in the Hebrew notion of Messiah. This child has pinned on himself the hopes and dreams of God’s covenantal community, Israel. Paul tells us that because of Christ’s work we have been “grafted” into all of Israel’s purposes and that this covenant is the New Covenant spoken of by the Prophets, sealed by God’s promises, and now sanctified by Christ’s very blood. This same Jesus is not just Messiah for Israel but for all who call upon him in faith (cf. Romans 10). As followers of Jesus Christ, God’s Messiah, we too have become part of a New Covenant community of believers. Our relationships are grounded upon the work of Christ and empowered by the very presence of the Holy Spirit.

​Finally, the Angel calls the Christ child, “Lord”. A unique title for an infant lying in a manger! While the other Christological titles might suggest an answer of “What’s in it for me?” or direct our thoughts to the benefits one receives by being a Christ follower, this title makes clear that the offer of salvation is not simply received on our own terms or for our own benefit.

The Author of salvation calls for a response. Not simply a sworn allegiance but a dynamic and constant decision on our part – His will or my will. What will be our response?

I trust that during this Christmas season we might create time and space to consider the unusual height and depth, length and breadth of this love God offers in the giving of the Christ child.