On Sunday, December 24, many Christians will light the fourth advent candle – the candle for the Messiah. Let’s look at some Christmas vocabulary and what Messiah means:
– a Greek word meaning “anointed person”
Anointed - a holy person set apart for a special purpose
Messiah – the Hebrew word for “Christ”
Christmas – the celebration of communion in honor of Christ
Christmas began as a holiday for worship of Christ or Messiah, a holy person set apart by God for a special purpose – to take away the sin of humans, to bring forgiveness to them. This Messiah was talked about by God’s representatives for a couple of thousand years before he appeared on the earth. They didn’t know what specific person the Messiah would be, only that such a person would one day come to the world.
Finally, Messiah came, 2000 years ago, in the life of Jesus, a man born in Israel. How did God let people know – “This is he! This is the Messiah, at last! Listen to him!”? Angels were sent with messages for Jesus’ mother and father – to explain what was happening and why this one particular baby was different from all other babies. Angels were sent to ordinary people (shepherds) so that there would be many witnesses to tell their stories.
Since Messiah’s purpose is forgiveness, let’s talk a bit about forgiveness tonight.
Parents usually try to teach their children this pattern of behavior - to admit when they do wrong, to apologize to whomever they have wronged and to expect to be forgiven by whomever they wronged. One more step is to try to undue any damage from the wrong – perhaps pay for a broken vase, or fix something, or spend some friendly time with someone. What do you think of this pattern of behavior? What attitude do you want to have when someone wrongs you? Does it make a difference – if they apologize or not?
The principle of revenge or vengeance is very powerful in many cultures. Is there a place for revenge in human relationships? Explain why or why not.
Is the idea of revenge important in your native culture? Is the idea of forgiveness important in your native culture? Why or why not? How are these principles demonstrated today? How were these principles demonstrated throughout the history of your country? Where can you see these principles in evidence in the world today? Which principle – forgiveness or revenge – has had the most impact on your own life?
This is the central meaning of Christmas, as an angel told some shepherds:
“I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ (Messiah) the Lord. And this will be a sign for you; you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:10-12