Friday, December 12, 2008

What's in a Name?

During the Christmas season we become preoccupied with a myriad of details pertaining to celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. American culture has added many dimensions completely unrelated to the actual historical event around which the holiday is based.

There is no better way of explaining the central significance of Christmas than by noting the meaning of the name of the One whose birth we remember and celebrate. It was no accident that Mary’s baby boy was named Jesus. Prior to His birth, an angel appeared to Joseph, instructing him to name the child Jesus.

Along with choosing the name, the angel added the reason for the name selection: “for He will save His people from their sins.” The coming Child was charged with a particular mission: saving His people from their sins. Thus we observe that beyond the quaint details of His birth is the spectacle of the cross.

Adding to the complexity of the event is the fact that the name Jesus is actually the Greek version of the name Joshua, which means literally, “Yahweh is salvation.” Putting these details together adds an element of mystery. If Mary’s child is to save His people from their sins, and His name means “Yahweh is salvation,” how can both be true?

The only logical conclusion is that the one named Jesus was in fact God (Yahweh) born in human form. Indeed, this is a parallel element of the Christmas story. The Gospel of Matthew quotes the ancient prophet Isaiah when he predicted 700 years earlier that a virgin would give birth to one called “Immanuel,” which means “God with us.”

So a proper celebration of Christmas is rejoicing in the reality that God Himself assumed human form to be the Savior of His people. Is He your Savior? If not, all of the peripheral aspects of the Christmas season will quickly fade away into insignificance.


Tracy said...

because the Name is so important - why are most Christians comfortable with putting the name of Jesus on a day that was originally given in honor of a pagan name/god this time of year?

Ed Guyer said...

You pose a good question, Tracy. My perspective is that we are wise to utilize the cultural occasion of Christmas to teach and preach the significance of the Incarnation. It is not wrong to remember, even celebrate, the birth of the Savior. In the spirit of "being all things to all men" (1 Cor. 9:22), we can redeem Christmas and make it a useful occasion to further the Kingdom.