As some would expect for a Christmas message I might begin in Luke chapter 2. But, I’m going to deliver a different kind of message. Today, I’m not going to focus on the birth of Jesus Christ, per se. But, I have another theme in mind. And, if I don’t mess it up, the theme should become evident.

Instead, let’s start with a quick reading of Mark’s version of the advent of Jesus Christ. Turn with me to Mark 1 and we’ll read verses 1-3.

Mark 1:1-3

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in Isaiah the prophet: “Behold, I send My messenger ahead of You, who will prepare Your way; the voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make ready the way of the Lord, make His paths straight.’”

Think about your salvation moment

Now, as you read this, I would like you to take a few moments to think back to that moment when someone explained the gospel to you and you responded to God’s call of salvation. Where were you? What were the circumstances? Think about that person and what motivated them to talk to you about it. Keep these things in the back of your mind.

As Mark began the description of the advent of Christ with the story of John the baptizer, in a theological sense, who was your John the baptizer? Was what motivated them to witness to you the same as what motivated John?

So as not to overly disappoint those who desire a traditional Christmas message, I give you Luke 2:8-14 and hopefully I’ll connect it with the Mark passage soon enough:

8 In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; 11 for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”

Key words

If we have attended church for any length of time, we’ve likely heard a sermon or two preached on the birth of Jesus as described in Luke chapter 2. It’s a natural message to deliver for Christmas time. But, if we look just a bit more closely we can see things in Luke’s short description that are telling and maybe we can make a connection to what seemingly are vastly different accounts in Mark and Luke.

As is my habit, I want us to look at some key words in the passage and I will try and make my theme clear in so doing.

Let’s look at verse 9. The passage indicates that an angel appeared in sudden fashion before them. The angel didn’t walk up, didn’t fly in, didn’t ride in on a camel. The angel “suddenly stood before them”. Essentially, this is Luke’s way of explaining what was clearly a supernatural event. I feel this is important for us to understand because the messenger has to be seen as credible by these shepherds.

I’m sure the men who spent a significant portion of their lives out on the land had seen quite a range of natural phenomena, some of it had to be quite unexplainable. Often, especially at that time in history, natural phenomena were seen as supernatural and awe inspiring. So, Luke had to ensure he described the scene accurately so the world understood that God was doing something to really catch the shepherds’ attention.

Yet, just in case the reader misses this point, Luke continues in verse 9 to help us. Luke identifies the source of this angel. That source is God. See in the verse where it says the angel is “of the Lord.” Now, I do recognize that in the King James, the words are slightly different and might lead one to believe this is a specific angel because it says “the angle of the Lord.” But, from this passage alone we cannot be sure.

Angel = messenger

Many of us may know that the Greek word translated as “angel” is aggelos (ang’ – el – os) and in English it means messenger. Note, there is no special description or understanding that we can gain just from the word angel. I think too often we have pictures in our head when someone mentions the word angel and that image in our minds can distract us from the point at hand. In this case, the messenger was to convey important information to a group of people, notably shepherds in the fields with their sheep.

Now, this messenger was accompanied by what the Bible refers to as the “glory of the Lord” which illuminated the area around the messenger. This gives rise to speculation about who this angel was, but I think that’s a distracting discussion to have because WHAT the messenger was to say was more important than who the messenger was.

The message

So, what was this all-important message the angel was to deliver? Let’s return to the text and see. The heart of the message for this angel is verse 11 – “for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

In plain and simple terms, the angel’s message is to announce the coming of Jesus. But, let’s not focus on who is coming at this point. Let’s focus on what is coming. Or more appropriately stated, for what purpose Jesus is coming. The words in the passage are: “there has been born for you a Savior.”

Because we know these words so well, I wonder if we too lightly gloss over or too lightly use this word Savior. What is a savior? As you might expect, it means someone who saves something. The Greek here is from a word that means to save or deliver or protect. What or who needed saving? Before we make an assumption about who needs saving, let’s let the verse tells us. It tells us that the savior is “born for you.” Though we know the angel was speaking to some shepherds in the fields, we fully understand this message, in the infinite wisdom of God, is meant for all humans.

So, from the passage we see that the message is meant for all people who apparently need saving. That, of course, begs the question … saving from what? Why do humans need saving? Are we in peril?

The fall of man

For the answer to that question, I’ll take you back to Genesis. That’s right. I believe you can’t have a Christmas message without pointing to the need for Christmas! We must have Christmas because of what we learn in Genesis 3:6-7. I’ll read the passage for you.

When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings.

Jesus came “born for you” because of the sin that entered the world through Adam and Eve. But some may ask what have we to do with the sin of those two people so long ago? Before anyone thinks that they don’t need saving, let me point out what the Apostle Paul wrote to the Romans.

Romans 1:18-20

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.

Romans 3:23

23 … for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

One can’t read Paul’s letter to the Romans without getting a full sense that we all are sinners and have gone beyond what Adam and Eve did thousands of years ago. We are guilty. Again in Romans 5, Paul wrote:

12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned —

Wait, it said that death was the result of sin there in verse 12. Did we know that? Do we truly know that our sin, just one committed sin puts us under a death sentence? The Bible teaches us this. Continuing with Paul’s letter we see the result of our sin … yes, even just one sin.

Romans 6:23

For the wages of sin is death.

So, what the angel was announcing was that a Rescuer has been born. One who could save us from our death penalty. This death penalty applied to us because of our sin. This is the Christ, the anointed one that had been prophesied to come to save humanity.

That would be amazing news to share, don’t you think? Wouldn’t it be worth celebrating the coming of a Rescuer like that? We should celebrate the fact that we are rescued from death. So, I say, let’s throw a big party every year and cause people to ask what we’re celebrating

Luke’s account does include a bit of a celebration. Once the news was announced that the Savior was born, a host of angels appeared and began to worship. I wager a guess this “host” of angels isn’t like most of us think of. Yes, there were many. But there are other Greek words to just indicate a large number. No, the Holy Spirit through Luke uses the word “host.” In Greek this is the translation for an army.

Have you ever thought of this pasture scene like that? A supernatural messenger appears, delivers a message to those who were present. Then, once the messenger delivers the message, suddenly an army appears, God’s army, angels in vast numbers. Their reaction to the announcement is worship! It must have been an amazing sight to see. Astounding! Do we worship God like this at the realization of why the Rescuer came? We should.

But …

Let me shift my message back to Mark’s account. Look at that passage again … Mark 1:1-3.

Mark 1:1-3

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in Isaiah the prophet: “Behold, I send My messenger ahead of You, who will prepare Your way; the voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make ready the way of the Lord, make His paths straight.’”

See that word messenger in Mark’s account? As I said, and as you know, this is referencing John the baptizer. We understand John’s purpose was to be that prophesied person who was to announce the coming of Jesus.

Wait, did you just hear what I said. John was foretold to announce the coming of Jesus. Does that sound familiar to the Luke passage? Actually, it’s the exact same thing. Luke records that an angel announced the coming of Jesus. Mark records that John announced the coming of Jesus.

If we have a Bible that shows us the Greek, then we would see something rather curious. In fact, I take it as more than curious and is the heart of my theme to you today.

Who did Luke say was the messenger? An angel.

Who did Mark say was the messenger? John the baptizer.

You might say .. Okay, Dan.. what’s your point?  The point is that in the original text, the word to describe these two as messengers is the exact same word!  In the Greek it is ang’-el-os. Yes, we always understood the Luke passage to be an angel. But, did we know that in the Mark passage about John that the writer uses the same word for John: ang’-el-os. In a very real sense, John is an angel. But not like the created beings that appeared in the fields. John is an angel – or messenger – because he is delivering the news that he was born to deliver; news of a Savior.

John and the angel are delivering the exact same message. John doesn’t have to be a special spiritual being like the angel that appeared in the field to carry the message of Good News to people who need to hear it. His message is the same.

We often refer to the gospel as the Good News. Some Bible passages refer to it as “glad tidings”. Well, I want to point out something to you quickly before I address the motivations of John and the angel to tell their message.

So, we’ve already established that the Greek word for a messenger is ang’-el-os. It literally means one who conveys a message or to put it in older terms, to bring tidings or news. But, listen to the word when you add one little extra part to the word, you get enhanced understanding.

When you take the word for angel (ang’-el-os) and add the Greek prefix yoo, we get a new word that has profound meaning. That Greek word now is yoo-ang-ghel-id’-zo. We all understand that word as “evangelize.” You can hear the similarity in sound even. What is the little prefix, then? Why does the prefix yoo turn the word for angel into evangelize? It’s simple. The Greek word yoo means “good.”

So, we have the understanding now that if the angel and John are announcing the arrival of Jesus, then the Bible helps us understand that to be good news or glad tidings. To evangelize is simply to announce good news because that’s exactly what the word literally means!

Now to their motivation as messengers. I’m going to read three passages to you and I’ll let you decided what John’s motivation is.

Matthew 28:18-20

18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Mark 16:15-16

15 And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. 16 He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.

Acts 1:8

8 “…but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”

We know these passages as various forms of what people refer to as the great commission. And we do have the understanding that these verses are addressing each and every Christian in this room. And this brings me home to my theme.

We must agree that the Christmas message is certainly newsworthy. But the reason for Christmas is that we are in desperate need of a Rescuer. When we add the prefix yoo to it. We have to understand the message is a message of good news … of great news, in fact.

Because of the commands of Christ that I just outlined in the Matthew, Mark and Acts, we are to be the angels of the world and bring glad tidings to everyone. We are the angels the Lord commands to deliver news of a Savior, a Rescuer, a Protector. Because every human is headed to death unless they respond to the good news of Jesus that we are commanded to deliver. We are the messengers and are born to deliver the news – the good news – of our Rescuer, our Savior, Jesus Christ Lord and King.

I hope I have made it clear that the Christmas message is an evangelistic one. And that, is my message to you today on this Christmas day here in 2016. Let’s be that herald messenger, that herald angel that the Christmas carol speaks about. Let us be that vast army of messengers who have all been commanded by our Leader to proclaim the gospel and worship in praise and thanksgiving for we are saved.

Dan Grubbs

Dan Grubbs, editor of Stewardculture, lives in northwest Missouri where he is implementing and managing a permaculture-style design on his 15-acre homestead. A weekly teacher of the Bible, Dan believes that an agrarian lifestyle is one in which he can answer God's calling to steward creation through regenerative techniques that attempt to mimic God's design.

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