The Long-Awaited Christ
Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you;
he is Christ the Lord.
We begin our journey to the heart of Christmas by zeroing in on the word Christ. In a biblically illiterate culture, many mistakenly suppose that Christ represents the last name of Jesus. In truth, Christ is a title that comes from the Greek (Christos) rendering of the Hebrew word Messiah, meaning “anointed one.” As such, the Christ of Christmas is the long-awaited Messiah who fulfills all the types and shadows of the Old Testament Scriptures.
To fully grasp the significance of Christ’s messianic role, you must drink deeply from the wellspring of Old Testament prophecy. In Hebrews, as in the rest of the New Testament, the Old Testament history of Israel is interpreted as a succession of types that find ultimate fulfillment in the birth, death, resurrection, and ascension of the Christ we celebrate at Christmas.
In his letter to the Romans, Paul refers to Adam as a “pattern” (literally, type) of Jesus Christ (Romans 5:14). Likewise, Paul taught the believers at Colosse that the dietary laws, religious festivals, and Sabbath of the Old Covenant were “a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ” (Colossians 2:17).
The interpretive principle of typology is equally persuasive in the Gospels. Christ’s successful resistance of temptation in the desert after forty days of fasting is a direct typological contrast to the disobedience of the Israelites that resulted in forty years of wilderness wanderings (Matthew 4:1–11; Mark 1:12–13; Luke 4:1–13). In remaining faithful to His Father, Christ did what Israel was unable to do. Christ is thus the true Israel, and all who are found in Christ are heirs according to the promises God made to Abraham (Galatians 3:29).
Moreover, Jesus is revealed as the antitype (that to which the type points) of the Hebrew prophets through His preaching of repentance, His ministry of healing, His concern for the poor and social outcasts, and His death near Jerusalem. Though like the prophets in these ways, Christ is shown to be greater than all the previous prophets in the manner of His miraculous ministry, His claims to be God, and the vindication of those claims in His resurrection. According to Luke’s gospel, Jesus Himself, “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets . . . explained to [his disciples] what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself ” (Luke 24:27). Today as you ponder the Christ of Christmas, remember that it is He alone who could emerge through the doorway of the Old Testament Scriptures.