A few years ago, in the December issue of "Life Magazine", the cover had a picture of Jesus and asks an interesting question: "Jesus, Who Was He?". This question takes on more interest during the Advent season, and the days leading up to Christmas. There's no better time to ask it, and no better time to discover the answer.

Who is Jesus? The Bible is full of different answers. Even in the Christmas passages, we see many names and titles for the one we are waiting for. In Matthew, he is called the Christ or the Messiah. This name refers to the fulfillment of prophecies made long ago. The people of Israel believed the prophets, and had waited a long time for the Messiah to come. By this name, Matthew is saying that the wait is over, the promises have come true, and the Messiah had come. Later, Matthew 1: 23 says, "his name shall be called Emmanuel" which means "God with us". One of the great gifts of Christmas is the Son of God coming down from heaven to be with us here on earth. Even the gifts of the Magi in Matthew answer the question, "Who is Jesus?". The gift of gold is a gift for a king, the frankincense is an oil of anointment revealing Jesus as one who came from God with a special mission, and the myrrh is a spice for burial showing that Jesus' special mission is to go a cross. Thus, in Matthew we see the baby as a heavenly king who came to earth to die for the people.

On the other hand, Luke's answer to "Who is Jesus?" comes in chapter 2, verses 32 and 33: "He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end." In contrast with the mission of the cross seen in Matthew, Luke's Advent lessons speak of the triumph of Jesus. Verse 35 adds to this: "the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God". And in verse 37, "with God, nothing will be impossible". Thus, in Luke we see the baby as the divine Son of God who will do the impossible; winning the victory over sin, death, and the devil; and reigning forever and ever.

All through Advent, we will see the different names of Jesus; and we will get hints into who Jesus was. But perhaps the simplest and most revealing answer of all comes in the very name Jesus, which both Matthew and Luke call the baby. For, the name Jesus literally means "he will save". That is what Jesus is all about, and this is why we celebrate Christmas; because it is the birth of one who saves. All the power, all the anointing, all the gifts from the Magi, all the names; they all tell us who Jesus is. The name Jesus tells us what Jesus does. He saves. That's the good news of Advent. We are waiting for the one who comes to save.

"Life Magazine" asks, "Who was Jesus?". A more appropriate question during Advent is: "Who is Jesus?". Jesus is not just someone who lived long ago, Jesus is someone who lives today. Jesus is not only the one who saved, He is the one who is saving today.

Your friend in Christ,

Pastor Ron.