By Michael O’Laughlin
Paul loses no time laying out Jesus’ messianic qualifications. We have heard the words that Paul employs so often that for us they may have lost their punch, but let us try to imagine how serious, even audacious, this passage might have sounded to Paul’s first readers. “Christ,” used here as part of the name of Jesus, means “anointed one”; thus it is itself a messianic title. Also, Jesus descends from David, a claim vividly developed in the Gospels. “Does not the Scripture say that the Christ will come from David’s family?” (John 7:42, N I V). As a descendant of the great king, Jesus brings all of biblical history to a climax.
The qualifications continue, but let us pause over the somewhat in significant word born. Paul states that in human terms Jesus is born from the Davidic line. Elsewhere Paul says that Jesus is “born of a woman, born under the law” (Gal 4:4). Why is this interesting? For one thing, Paul only mentions the birth of Jesus in passing. How paradoxical that from this small beginning would flower the richest of Christian meditations: The birth of Jesus, the story of God’s incarnation and appearance on the universal stage, eventually becomes the centerpiece of Christian faith and culture.
Jesus’ birth is ever at the heart of Christianity, so today let us hear again Paul’s simple affirmation: Jesus was a son of the house of David. To be born means to be human, and thus Christ is truly one of us. We need not imagine that Jesus was some strange superman or cosmic intruder. He was born among us; this simple truth is the touchstone of Christmas.
Dear Jesus, help me to see you as a human being, and help me to see your birth as the beginning of God’s work of reconciliation with the world. Help me to sense more deeply that the world awaits God’s redemption and you, God’s redeemer. Amen.