By Byron Smith
During our lives, we may earn various titles (Dr., Rev., Prof., Captain, Hon.), hold and shed
numerous job descriptions (“assistant burger technician” until promoted to “sandwich
artist”), get stuck with nicknames (“merino man” was mine for a while) or be placed by our
relations (“so-and-so’s little brother”), but under them all is our actual name. Our name
labels us in a way that is typically more permanent, more universal, more legally-binding, and
more personal than any of these other tags. Studies show that most people like no word
better than hearing the sound of their own name (a fact exploited by salespeople, overeager
church welcomers and politicians of all stripes).
Jesus had many titles in scripture and many more have been coined for him subsequently,
but only one name, a name that has become better known than any other name in history.
Our name, like our very life, is a gift received from others, based on their choice, not ours.
Some families select names from ancestors to bind generations together. Some parents
select names that reflect their own aspirations and values. Some just like the way it sounds.
When the most famous name in history was first bestowed, it was not selected by Mary
or Joseph, but announced by an angel: “You are to name him Jesus”. Or in Hebrew, Yeshua,
a common contraction of Yehoshua (Joshua), a good, solid Israelite name recalling Moses’
successor as leader of the people. But why this name? Throughout the Bible, the meaning of
names matter: Adam was formed from the ground (adamah); Peter is the rock (petra); the
miracle baby that Sarah laughed at is called ‘laughter’ (Isaac). Yeshua means “God saves”. So
he is to be called Jesus (God saves) because he will save his people.
Jesus, in his very name, points to the mystery at the heart of Christmas. In this baby, God is
truly with us.
And Jesus, in his very name, points to the good news at the heart of Christmas. This little
baby will be the Saviour of us all.