She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins. – Matthew 1:21
I can only imagine what it must have been like this night so many years ago when Mary gave birth to her son. And, together she and Joseph gazed into his eyes and declared his name for the first time. I can imagine the first words from Joseph’s lips, “You are Jesus, son of Joseph, son of the Most High God.” In that moment I can only imagine what it was like for these earthly parents, Joseph and Mary, to speak the name of their son who was the Son of God.
In the stillness of night I can only imagine the delivery scene – a young woman’s first birth experience taking place among a host of animals. Surely she felt awkward in such a place – away from everything she knew. I can only imagine how she must have missed her mother, family, and friends in Nazareth.
I can just imagine how these new parents took the tiny babe and swaddled him in the soft clothing, wrapping him up tightly to keep him bundled. I can imagine Joseph and Mary singing a soft lullaby to him that they had been singing since they left Nazareth some days ago. And, there in my imagination is Joseph hushing the animals even feeding them as they softly speak into the quiet of the night. In the midst of everyday life these gentle parents spoke the tiny baby’s name – Jesus.
In the now moments of our lives we find ourselves possessing a name whom everyone calls us by and whom the world knows us to be. But what does a name mean? Has anyone ever asked you what your name means? Have your parents remembered with you why you were given the name you possess? Do you know where your name comes from – the country of its origin? Our names are labels we stick on our shirts when we are at conferences. And, in school our names are called from the attendance book, and placed on every sheet of paper and exam we offer for grades.
Did you ever think about where your name came from – why this name? When your mom and dad found out they were going to have you, they spent a lot of time thinking about what to name you. Did you ever ask your parents why they named you the way they did? Do you know the story behind your name?
I remember when I was little my mother would recount the day of my birth, and tell me how I got my name. When I had children, I recounted their birth stories, and told them how they got their names – and why their names are special.
In our culture we all have last names, and first names, and many of us even have middle names. Our last names often reveal something about our family heritage – where our family comes from in the world. Some of us are named after family members, and are given a name to carry on the family heritage. For married women their maiden names remain apart of their legal identity even when we do not keep our family name. When we fill out forms, women are required to include their maiden name as a way of record keeping.
Some of us have been named as a reminder of a friend, a community hero, or even a Biblical figure to set us apart from others. And, still people have a name that was simply liked or agreed upon by the parents from a baby book of names. Some names are even made up names that creatively blend different sounds together to create a brand new word never spoken before.
And, when parents hold their newborn babies and gaze upon them, they proudly declare their names. And, they say things like, “You look like … Mamaw Nancy!” Then the child is given the name of the person they most resemble to their parents, “You must be called Lily!”
As you grow up some folks might inquire about your name, and remark about what a good name it is, or how fitting it is for you to have that name. They say things like “you look like your name.” Indeed, our names say a lot about us and as we grow up our names become a part of our identity, a part of who we are.
In the already not yet moment of this Christmas night we find ourselves reflecting on the name of Jesus. Jesus has already come to the earth, yet we wait for his return to claim his inheritance in Israel’s land. Jesus possesses the only name to throne of David. Jesus has a long story behind his name. Did you know that there is a saying from long ago in the reading of Proverbs that “a good name is to be chosen rather than great riches” (Proverbs 22:1)? You can imagine that names were pretty significant to the people of Israel even before Jesus was born. Tonight as we imagine the birth of this child, Jesus, imagine with me his proud parents offering him the name declared by God the Father himself through the angel Gabrielle – the name Jesus (Luke 1.30-31).
When Mary and Joseph found out that they were going to have a baby, they didn’t have to go to the library and get a book to choose his name. In fact, they didn’t choose his name at all. God sent an angel to tell Mary and Joseph, “You will have a son, and you will call his name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sin.” You see, the name Jesus means “the Lord saves.”
Further along in Luke’s Gospel we read about the official naming of Jesus (Luke 2.12-24). Eight days later Jesus is circumcised according to Jewish tradition. There is a traditional sacrifice. And, he is officially named Jesus. All this was done according to the law written by Moses. And, according the words of the angel spoken to Joseph, and Joseph called the boy, Jesus (Matthew 1.21). And, this name, Jesus, was spoken by the angel even before he was conceived within Mary’s womb (Luke 1.31).
The naming of Jesus was so important that an angel spoke the name in a dream to his father, Joseph, even before he was born (Matthew 1.20-21). This night… Jesus’ name was bestowed upon him as a gift from his Heavenly Father through the blessing of his earthly parents – Mary and Joseph.
The prophets of the past proclaim the one who would behold the name that surpasses all names, who would be the rightful heir to David’s throne. The story of Jesus’ name reaches back many years before he was even born. Our passage today is from Isaiah the prophet who lived 700 years before Jesus was born. And he declared that there would be a sign, a young woman would become pregnant, and give birth to a son. She shall name him Emmanuel meaning God is with us (Isaiah 7.14).
Isaiah declared that this child of Israel would be given as a Savior with the authority to lead his people as the Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Eternal Father, and the Prince of Peace. This son of Israel would have vast authority and endless peace. He would rule as the Son of David, and his Kingdom would be one of justice and righteousness forever (Isaiah 9.6-7).
After His Death, his followers valued his name. In the Gospel of Matthew we hear Jesus’ parting words that all power and authority are contained “in the name of Jesus,” and that power and authority are given to his followers. Jesus’ final words to his disciples are for believers to go into the world and share his story of salvation, and to anyone who would believe “in the name of Jesus” would find salvation for their souls (Matt. 28:18). Since that time, the name of Jesus has held sway over all of Jesus’ followers. They know all power and authority belong to Jesus, and each one can call upon that precious name in faith to change the outcome of the world.
As his followers went forth into the world, we can read about how they implemented the power of his name to heal a man who was crippled in the Acts of the Apostles. In Acts 3:6 Peter tells a crippled man that he doesn’t have silver or gold but he has the name of Jesus. Peter declares to him, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth get up and walk.” By faith in the name of Jesus, this man was made strong enough to walk. It is in Jesus’ name, and faith in that name, that the man received his complete healing for all to see.
We read in Acts 4.12 that salvation comes by no other name among humankind. And, in Acts 5.28, Peter and John made it plain to the leaders of the Jewish community that Jesus was the Messiah, yet, his own people refused him and asked that his name not be spoken among the people.
And, we hear from Paul the declaration of a man who met the resurrected Jesus on the road, “Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” Philippians 2:9-11).
This night… the child who had been concealed will come forth from the water of the womb into the still darkness of the night. What has been a promise will be realized. What has been concealed will be revealed. From ages past the promise of a Savior who will save his own creation has come into reality. We gather tonight to celebrate our Creator God who has been revealed to us in the form of a man.
Jesus Christ has given Christians the right and authority to use his name. This means that Christians have been given the power of attorney. Legally, power of attorney is the ability to act in another person’s behalf. It is authorization given by one person (Jesus) permitting another (Christians) to take action on his (Jesus Christ’s) behalf.
Jesus told his disciples, “And whatever you ask in my name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in my name, I will do it” (John 14:13-14). And, again, “Whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full” (John 16:23-24).
The name of Jesus Christ is not a magic word. The power is not even in saying words, but in understanding and believing all that the name of Jesus Christ signifies. His name represents all of His finished from his birth to the finished work on the cross in fulfilling God’s plan of redemption and salvation to his victory over sin and death even over the devil’s entire realm.
When the name of Jesus Christ is invoked, it carries all of the power and distinction God gave to it. God raised Jesus from the dead, elevated Him to His right hand, and gave Jesus a name above “every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come” (Ephesians 1:21).
Paul teaches us in Philippians that “God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth” (Philippians 2:9- 10).
And, again the letter to the Hebrews regards Jesus as the one who purged us of our sins. It is Jesus who sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on High, having become more important than the angels, as he has through his inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they” (Hebrews 1:3-4).
It is by faith in this name above all names, the name of Jesus Christ, that people are saved, set free from bondage, healed of sicknesses and diseases, and made whole. There is no other name under heaven more powerful or more significant, and this is a dynamic reality that Christians can believe in and have complete confidence in.
And, now you and I are called to understand what that name means to us today. The name Jesus is the name that for all time is the name of a prophet, priest, and king. The name Jesus represents the Savior of the World. It means everything that was spoken by the prophets – that Christ would someday fulfill. It means we are accountable with how we speak of Jesus in prayer, and throughout our every day life.