The story of Jesus’ birth most fully revealed in the gospels of Matthew and Luke. John takes a more theological approach which would reach both a Greek and Hebrew audience. When we read Mark’s gospel, however, it appears that he has simply glossed over the whole thing. There is nothing of Mary, Joseph or Bethlehem, let alone angels, shepherds and magi. Does this mean there is nothing of the Christmas story to be found in the opening words of Mark’s gospel? Let’s take a closer look.
Mark’s gospel begins with these words: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in Isaiah the prophet…” (Mark 1:1-2a). What is it we find here that points to the birth of the Messiah?
First, we see that his name is Jesus. The angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and said, “You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will call His name Jesus.” (Luke 1:31)
The name Jesus means “The Lord is salvation.” The gospel is centered in a very real person, Jesus, who came on a mission to save sinners. At Christmas we celebrate how God came to us in a fragile, little baby. God came to us clothed in flesh, but wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger slept the one who came to save us all. He is Jesus!
Second, he is Jesus Christ. “Christ” is a Greek term equivalent to the Hebrew “Messiah.” It means “the Anointed One.” If we go back and look in the Old Testament, we find that those who were anointed had oil poured over one who was chosen to set apart for a special a special tasks. Priests were anointed. Some prophets were anointed. The majority of cases of anointing, though, refer to kings. This is critical for us to understand this Christmas season.
Jesus came as King! God had promised one in the line of David, and both Joseph and Mary trace their lineage to David. He is God’s Anointed in a way not human king was, for He was God in the flesh. He was worthy to wear the crown, not just for His generation but for all eternity. The wise men came from the east asked, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” (Matthew 2:2). The Gospel is about the King who came to us, who died for us, and who defeated death and hell so that we might share in His kingdom forever!
Third, he is the Son of God. The angel spoke to Mary, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the holy One to be born will be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:35)
Jesus was miraculously conceived in the womb of a virgin. He was uniquely God’s Son – both human and divine. He came with the authority of the God because He was God in the flesh. Jesus himself said, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30). When you look at your manger scene and see the little baby in the manger, do not forget this is God come to us!
Finally, Jesus is the fulfillment of prophecy. There are at least 44 prophecies in the Old Testament directly related to Jesus. The Scriptures told of one who would come as messiah, savior, and king. Jesus is the fulfillment of what God spoke to the prophets long ago.
Christmas is the beginning of the Gospel because it is the beginning of the fulfillment of all that God had promised. It was there to see all along. God had spoken it through prophets. Jesus fulfilled it – Savior, Messiah, King, God in the flesh. This is the Jesus we celebrate, the Jesus we worship, the Jesus we come and adore.