When we chose names for our children, I was unhelpfully decisive. I was sure of the names I didn’t want! Eventually we chose names with meanings we liked, but only after much thought!
Perhaps it was a relief to Mary and Joseph that God told them the names for their baby that first Christmas. After all, they were a young couple with the stress of arranging a wedding when they had to deal with the embarrassment of an unexpected pregnancy where the groom wasn’t the father.
But rather than let Joseph do a runner, God intervened through a dream and encouraged Joseph to take Mary as his wife. She was pregnant by a miracle from God. God also told Joseph the names for the baby. Names with meaning – and not just for him, but for us today, two thousand years on.
Joseph heard that the baby would be called Jesus, “because he will save his people from their sins.” Sin sounds like an old-fashioned word meaning saying rude words or having one too many chocolates at Christmas.
But in the Bible it’s a much bigger issue. It describes an attitude where people want God’s gifts – like life and love – but they don’t want to know him, the Giver. I’ve definitely been guilty of valuing Christmas presents more than the person who gave it, and no-one is innocent of that attitude when it comes to God. But Jesus has come to save us from our sins – great news!
But how? Jesus’ other given name was “Immanuel, which means ‘God with us.’” With us. When someone says “I’m with you through this,” it can be hugely encouraging through a difficult time. The astonishing message of Christmas is that God has shown up on Earth to be with us. On our side to help confront our darkest fears and regrets, with us so we can know and value him through all of life and beyond. And all in the baby Jesus.
The question is, do you want life lived with Jesus? Why not get to a Plymouth church this Advent to hear more?
Rev’d Tim Partridge, St Andrew’s, Plymouth