Our reading for today is from the first chapter of Matthew. And this is the naming of Jesus.
When Joseph woke from sleep. He did as the Angel of the Lord commanded him. He took his wife but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus. (Matthew 1:24-25)
Does your name have any meaning at all? Some people have names that has a meaning attached to it, but a lot of times our parents pick out our names just because they like the sound of them. I was very disappointed to find out that my name Don literally means to be a sir or a master in Spain. But nobody of course would ever know that.
Sometimes the names that were given might have significance for a particular event. Many years ago there was a comet that came by in 1986, the Haley comet, and because of that a lot of young ladies were named Haley during that year.
Names oftentimes aren’t tied to anything at all and sometimes the names can almost be a little bit ironic. When I was in high school I knew somebody named Joy who was one of the most unhappy people I’ve ever met. Sometimes people are given the name Christian and at the same time might not always appear to be living a very Christian life. Or someone might have the name Love and actually be someone who’s got a violent temper. So names can sometimes even be ironic.
Back in biblical times names often had a great significance attached to them. For instance the name Abraham was given by God and that means father of many. And if you remember the story in the Bible how Abraham looked at the stars and God said that his descendants would be numbered like the stars that he would be the father of so many. Or Elizabeth. The name Elizabeth means my God is an oath. In other words God has promised me something. Or Ezekiel means God will strengthen.
Isn’t it interesting that when God decides to enter our world in order to provide us with a way to heaven that he very particularly chooses a name for this little child that names exactly what his work will be. The name Jesus means Savior. Savior. Now think of all the different names that God could have selected: all mighty, all powerful, all knowing, so many different titles and names for God. And yet when his Son is going to come into the world and become a human being like one of us, in order to work out our salvation to get us to heaven, he chooses a name for him that is simply Savior.
And that’s a wonderful thing for us to know. By this name God removes you from the kingdom of darkness and puts you instead into the kingdom of light when he puts this name on you in your baptism.
With this name on your head you are relieved from all of the sins in your entire life because of what the name Jesus now means for you. By placing this name on your heart God invites all of your anxieties and concerns to be put away and to be quieted. Cast all your care upon him because he cares for you. With this name on your very body even the worst things that the world can throw at you, even death itself, will not conquer you. And instead because of the name Jesus you will rise again in your resurrection. With this name on your lips you are given access to the ear of God in all of your troubles and in all of your difficulties and trials. Jesus says whatever you ask the father in my name he will give it to you.
An old Norwegian pastor by the name of Bishop Lockie once said “the name Jesus is written in living letters on the gate through which we will enter a new year and especially on the gate through which we will enter heaven.” So God invites you during the Christmas season to look into the manger and along with Saint John say this: “Behold what manner of love the father has lavished on us that we should be called Children of God.” Amen.