There are many questions expectant families are asked. When is the baby due? Do you know if the baby is a boy or a girl? What are you going to name him/her? Names are very important, both today and in the Bible. In Bible times they not only identified the person to whom they belonged; they also portrayed an aspect of that person’s character. For example, Jacob and Esau both had names that depicted something about them. Esau’s name (which means red or earth) was given to him because of his hair and outdoorsman character and Jacob’s name (which is derived from the verb which means to grab or take hold of) was given to him because he was born grasping his brother’s heel. The angel Gabriel informed Mary that the name of the Child to be born to her would be Jesus (Lk. 1:31). Although they look and sound different in English, Jesus, and Joseph are similar in Hebrew. They are based on the verb "to save" and the most holy name of God, Yahweh. Matthew notes in his Gospel that this name was given to Jesus because "He will save His people from their sins" (Mt. 1:21). Jesus' name not only spoke of His nature (Savior), it also speaks of His purpose (One who saves).
While many people often mutter “Jesus Christ” as an explicative, when it is stated in Scripture it is a combination of both His personal name and the role He came to fulfill. One of the earliest Christian symbols is the combination of two Greek letters interposed upon one another. The first letter is X (chi- pronounced kee) and the second, P (rho- pronounced row). Together they form a sacred monogram of the Greek word Christos, the New Testament word for Messiah. The names Messiah and Christ both mean “anointed one”. In the Bible, men were anointed for special roles. Kings were anointed when they took the throne. Priests were anointed when they served the Lord. And prophets were anointed to speak forth God's Word. But God’s Anointed One had a very special job. He was God’s Son (Ps. 2). He would suffer (Ps. 22), but He would also restore the broken relationship between God and man (Is. 49:5-6). He would lead Israel (Ps. 20), and He would rule over all the earth (Ps. 72). God's Anointed One also was also given the role of a deliverer (Is. 59:20; Rom. 11:26-27; Gal. 1:3-4) which is why the angel tells Joseph to name the child Jesus. This Child would fulfill the role of the Messiah, not just to the Jewish people, but for the entire world (Lk. 2:25-32; John 3:16-17).
There is usually a lot of joy when a child is born into a family. Everyone makes a claim as to whether the child looks like his/her mother or father, or someone else in the family. They take note of eye and hair color, the shape of the child's face or their hands and compare them to the relative in question. Not too many people look at a newborn and declare what profession they will have when they are an adult. They don't predict the baby will be a doctor or check-out clerk because their aunt or grandfather was one. Most people don't even think twice about the career that a child will establish for him or herself, although one or two brave people might casually mention a family tradition or talent that could be passed on to the newest member of the family. However Jesus, by the nature of His name and the events surrounding His birth, was destined to fulfill a role that was determined to be the only way to deliver people from their sins (Gen. 3:15). This is perhaps the greatest mystery of Christmas; that God Himself became flesh and blood, but not just any flesh and blood. He became a baby. And that Baby changed everything.
Ann H. LeFevre, M. Div.
Week of 12/24/2017