Some parents take a while choosing a name for their baby. I’ve seen it on quiet a few occasions. Sometimes they have a name ready but when the child is born the name just doesn’t seem right. So there’s some further considering to do. Some pondering. Why? Because a name says something about someone. It reflects something of who they are. Names are linked to identity. Names are important.
God thinks so too.
Not only does God know you by name (Exodus 33:17) but he sometimes intervenes to make sure someone gets the right name.
So Simon, after finding faith in Christ, is renamed Peter (Matthew 16:17). Jesus clearly thinks that ‘Rocky’ is a better fit than ‘Heard’. Saul, meaning ‘Ask’ is renamed Paul, meaning ‘Humble’ (Acts 13:9).
In Hebrew culture, first-born sons were usually named after the father, or with a family name. At the first Advent God made it clear to Zechariah and Elizabeth that their son (who traditionally would be called Zechariah, meaning ‘God has Remembered’) should be called John, meaning ‘God is Gracious’ (Luke 1:13). Mary and Joseph are similarly instructed to not name their son Joseph, meaning ‘Addition’ but Jesus, meaning ‘God Saves’ (Matthew 1:21).
So Advent and Christmas are all about the arrival of the one who’s name means ‘God Saves’. No wonder the angel says to the shepherds ‘A Saviour has been born’ (Luke 2:11) because Jesus came to save us from the mess of the world and all it consequences. From the sin in our lives that so easily entangles and enslaves. He came to liberate us to live a new life, lived in relationship with our Father in heaven. Saviours save. They avert disaster and bring a better future. That’s what Jesus came to do.
Isn’t it amazing that it’s all summarised in his name? Jesus. Saviour.
What does your name mean? (If you’re not sure, look it up at behind the name.com) Are you able to take a few minutes to give thanks to Jesus for who he is, using his name – ‘God Saves’?