What child is this? This is the ancient question of incarnate mystery we have been pondering throughout the Advent season. What child is this, born of a woman and born of God—the Son of God? What child is this, who is to be named Jesus—”Yahweh saves?” What child is this, whom Malachi, Gabriel, Elizabeth, and Zechariah honor as “Lord?” This child is the Christ—the Messiah!
“But the angel said to [the shepherds], ‘Do not be afraid, for see, I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people:to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord’” (Lk. 2:10-11, NRSV).
“It had been revealed to [Simeon] by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what was customary under the law, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God” (Lk. 2:26-28).
“When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him, and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it has been written by the prophet’” (Mt. 2:3-5).
Yes, this One to be born as Māšîah—Messiah—will be God’s anointed priest and king.
The Greek word used in Luke 2:11 and Matthew 2:4 is the masculine noun χριστὸς christos, which means “anointed,” “Christ,” or “Messiah.” The Greek word used in Luke 2:26 is χριστὸν christon, meaning the same.[i]
When the Hebrew word māšîah is used in the Old Testament, it consistently refers to God’s anointed one, e.g., the anointed priest, Yahweh’s anointed king, the man whom God exalted, the anointed of God, the favorite of God, God’s servant, the breath of our life, the anointed prince, the Christ (see Lev. 4:3, 5, 16; I Sam. 2:10, 35; 16:6; 24:7, 11; 26:9, 11, 16; 2 Sam. 1:14, 16; 19:22; 22:51; 23:1; Isa. 45:1; Hab. 3:13; Ps. 2:2; 18:50; 20:7; 28:8; 84:10; 89:39; 105: 15; Lam. 4:20; and Dan. 9:25).
The term “messiah” itself is derived from royal titulature. In Israel, as elsewhere in the ancient Near East, objects and persons whose function or office brought them especially close to the divine were smeared with oil. Kings, priests, and at least occasionally prophets were anointed, and in the Hebrew Bible, the term “anointed one” (Hebr. mashiah, rendered in English as “messiah”) is used only of past or present leaders. … In Hellenistic Judaism, the term “messiah” was applied to a future leader sent by God to restore autonomy to Israel, whose rule would inaugurate an era of peace and prosperity like that enjoyed under David. … So the anointed one, the “messiah,” was to be a descendant of David, fulfilling the promise of an eternal dynasty to David in 2 Samuel 7.16, and like David, he would be born in Bethlehem (see Mic 5.2). The early Christians believed that Jesus was this messiah.[ii]
God foreshadowed this Christological role at the very beginning, the Genesis of all things.
“I will put enmity between you [the serpent] and the woman and between your offspring and hers; he will strike your head, and you will strike his heel” (Gen. 3:15).
Christ, the Messiah, would come from the seed of Eve, born of Mary, born of God, and crush the enemy underfoot who had deceived humankind and bound us to the curse of a now-fallen creation. Many Biblical characters were a “type” of Christ pointing toward the fulfillment of this promise to Eve. These were the priestly and kingly servants God anointed over the Israelite people: Aaron, Saul, David, and David’s descendants. Even Cyrus is referred to by this moniker. The Jewish people—God’s people—had been waiting and longing for Messiah for as long as historical memory could reach.
And suddenly, there he was, in the temple when the Holy Spirit prompted Simeon to go and pray. There he was when the magi of the East followed the star and their knowledge of the prophecy that meant the Messiah had been born. There he was, in a humble stable wrapped in swaddling clothes in a feeding trough, when the angelic chorus burst into jubilation over the shepherds in the field, startling them into wonder at the declaration of this Good News.
Here he is, the Christ-child, the promised One of God who is a priest forever, reigning as king over all, the Anointed One. Who is this child? He is the Messiah!
- Spend some time meditating on the artwork “Mary & Eve” that accompanies this devotion. Gaze at the image with openness, asking the Holy Spirit to help you see with God’s eyes. What do you notice as you contemplate this image?
- What draws your attention to a deeper pondering? Stay with what you are noticing and wondering. Consider journaling or talking with God about these things.
- What responses, memories, and feelings does the image evoke? What connection does it make with your present life? Take your time. Respond to God about what you are seeing and experiencing. Let your ongoing contemplation of this scene lead you to gratitude and worship.
Pray: Lord God, thank you for your faithfulness to your promises to your people. You have conquered our enemy by sending your Son Jesus as the Messiah—the Christ. Hallelujah! I come before you, my King and my God, in confession and repentance today, in need of your mercy for my arrogant sin of self-sufficiency. You alone, O Lord, can conquer the enemy and defeat death. And because you have declared in your word that “although [my] sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow” (Isa. 1:18), I now receive your forgiveness in the name of the Messiah—Christ my Savior. Amen!
Listen: “My Deliverer.” Written by Rich Mullins and Mitch McVicker. Performed by Rick Elias. © 1998, Liturgy Legacy Music. © Word Music / ASCAP / White Plastic Bag Music / SESAC.
[i] Logos Bible Software, Exegetical Guide, “Word by Word” (Bellington: Faithlife, LLC , 2022), Luke 2:11, 26; Matthew 2:4.
[ii] Michael D. Coogan and Cynthia R. Chapman, A Brief Introduction to the Old Testament: The Hebrew Bible in Its Context, Fourth Edition. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2020), 237-8.
About the author:
Julie Meissner is the Assistant Director of Spiritual Formation for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, developing and curating retreats and spiritual formation resources for the holistic flourishing of all InterVarsity staff. She is a spiritual director, seminary student, and house mom at Abba's House refugee ministry, which she co-founded with her husband Michael, a pastor. They have two adult children—a son who works cattle in West Texas and a daughter studying biology at Baylor, as well as one high school son still in the nest, along with their menagerie of farm animals and the community garden in Cypress, TX.