18 This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. 19 Joseph, to whom she was engaged, was a righteous man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly. 20 As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet: 23 “Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’”Matthew 1:18-23
What’s in a name? In the tragedy Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare wrote, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Or as Bubba Bussey of Rick & Bubba might say, “Call a skunk a flower and he still stinks.” What Shakespeare was trying to say that what is important, is who a person is, not what they are called. If You Can Remember Only 1 Thing, This Is it: The Jesus We Need Is Not Found At The Manger, But At The Cross.
We place a lot of emphasis on naming children. Naming a new baby is a challenging process. It’s hard to please everybody with a name. Dad wants a name that will look good on the sports page, like Tua Waddle or Bo Patrick. Mom selects a fashionable name and insists on no nicknames, something like Catherine or Benjamin or Cynthia. Grandpa wants to use a hallowed family name from the past, like Horatio or Alonzo. Aunt Phebe wants a name that reflects her culture, like Tranquility or Greenpeace or Mellow. It’s a miracle of diplomacy that a name is ever chosen. We want names that reflect character and potential, and hopefully fit the child.
But Mary and Joseph did not face the hassle of finding a name for their baby boy. They didn’t have Joseph’s father saying, “You know, you should name that boy after your Great-Great-Great-Great grandfather Zadok. I don’t know why our family hasn’t used that name more.” That important matter was decided for them by God, and the message was delivered by an angel.
Remember the story with me. Joseph, a local carpenter, is deeply troubled. His fiancée Mary is pregnant, and he knows that he is not responsible. She says it is the Lord’s doing, but Joseph is a practical fellow. Maybe he fears that she has been raped, perhaps by one of those hated Roman soldiers.
Maybe he thinks that she’s afraid that he will do something rash that will endanger his life. She refuses to budge from her story. So he has decided to break the engagement quietly in order to limit the public disgrace. He knows the community elders could have her stoned for adultery if he breaks the engagement. His heart is breaking because I believe he loves her.
Absorbed in these sad thoughts, Joseph falls into a troubled sleep. In that troubled sleep, he has a dream. An angel tells him that Mary is telling the truth. He is ordered to skip the balance of their one-year engagement, to go ahead and marry Mary right away. In other words, Let The Gossips Talk!
Then the angel revealed something else very important—the name of the baby and His title. “You shall name Him Jesus!” And his title will be the one predicted by the prophet Isaiah some 800 years earlier—“Emmanuel—God With Us.”
The Name And The Title reveal what Christmas is all about. Yeshua! In the Hebrew it means God Delivers, Saves, And Rescues! It’s The Perfect Name For The Perfect Gift for many reasons. In the light of Advent, allow me to share with you 3 reasons why Jesus is the perfect name:
1. It’s The Perfect Name For Hope!
There was no prophetic voice for over 400 years. Heaven was quiet. God seemed to be silent. No one stepped forward with a Word from God. Except for a brief period, they had been under foreign occupation and rule for nearly 600 years. No voice from heaven and held captive, there was a struggle—the struggle for hope.
When hope was obscured by years of fear and oppression, God spoke, not with words, but with a baby. John put it this way in 1:14 from the Message: The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, generous inside and out, true from start to finish.
Jesus is the perfect name for Hope because He chose, out of His awesome love, To Move Into Our Neighborhood. What does your neighborhood look like right now? No, not the one where you house is located, but the one that surrounds your day to day living. Are you living in the neighborhood of Fear? Despair? Chaos? Confusion? Addiction? Loneliness? Uncertainty? Depression? Shame? Doubt? Guilt?
Listen, Someone else has moved into YOUR neighborhood and His name is Jesus—God Delivers, Saves, And Rescues! He joins alongside us, giving us courage, determination, comfort, strength to move through and power to overcome. Jesus broke through the silence and oppression then, and He still does it today. That’s REAL Hope! When Jesus moves into our neighborhood, there is always Hope! Jesus Is The Perfect Name For Hope!
2. It’s The Perfect Name For Joy!
There is a real problem in our culture today—people are wanting happiness, rather than Pursuing Joy. The Difference Between Happiness And Joy Is Clear: Happiness Is Found In Some THING—Joy Is Discovered In Some ONE! Happiness is built on the assumption that if we just had “that”—that amount of money, that relationship, that job, that other pastor, if we could get into that clique, if we had that car or that house—then we would be truly happy. If we just had that Samsung 122” TV, or get that promotion, or get rid of that boss, or that spouse, then we would be happy. The truth is, sometimes we manage to get those things, and for a time, we’re happy. But when the new wears off, then we will start looking again for something That makes us happy.
On the other hand, Joy is discovered in Some ONE. As someone once said, There’s A God Sized Hole In Every Heart And Only God Can Fill It! Not just anyone, but the one who is named Jesus. We are created for an intimate relationship with God. Circumstances change, relationships change, material stuff wears out, breaks down and becomes obsolete, wealth comes and goes, even our health changes over time as I have so painfully discovered.
But God is going to stay with you through thick and thin, ups and downs. His Presence, Promises And Power are always Here and This rather than That, is what fills us with joy. Because He Has forgiven us He can be trusted to be our Lord, because He gives us life now and eternal life later—Now That’s The Perfect Name For Joy.
3. It’s The Perfect Name For Love!
Love is more than words, much more. Truth is—words are a cheap substitute because they lack the 2 key components of real love—the love that God gives. John wrote in 1 John 3:18-19—Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions. Our actions will show that we belong to the truth.
God’s love is expressed in His heart and in His actions. Words alone are shallow, but love that acts out of the heart is deep, lasting, and powerful enough to transform another person’s life. Love Without Actions Is Shallow, And God Never Dwells In The Shallow Places, But In The Deepest Parts Of Our Heart.
Jesus set the pattern with His example. Paul wrote in Galatians 5:13 But Christ has rescued us from the curse pronounced by the law. When he was hung on the cross, he took upon himself the curse for our wrongdoing. For it is written in the Scriptures, “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.”
In 1873, Father Damien De Veuster voluntarily went to Molokai in the Hawaiian Islands. Molokai was an isolation island for those with leprosy. He helped improve their quality of life with a water system, a sanitation system and a clinic. With help of the local lepers, they build a chapel where services were held every Sunday. Every Sunday, Father Damien would begin his sermon by saying, “You lepers know that God loves you.” This went on for years.
Finally, one Sunday Father Damien began his sermon this way: “We lepers know that God loves us.” Father Damien had contracted leprosy. He was so busy taking care of them, he didn’t take the time to take care of himself with a simple task of washing his hands. Yet he went on loving and serving until his death in 1898.
Jesus did not come in a disguise, He came in Real-Life-Flesh-And-Blood, the same stuff of you and me. He ran, He played, He skinned his knees, laughed, swam, fished, cried, built tables, attended parties, felt anguish and heartache, laughed at jokes and told jokes. He understands you because He experienced what you experience. And why did He do that? He Did It So That We Could Know That He Loves Us!
I want to take this love He has for you one step deeper. Jesus does not say, You sinners know that God loves you. Jesus does not say that, He says something much more, much deeper, with more love. Jesus says to you and me, We sinners know that God loves us!
I say this because the holiness of God demands justice—that the penalty for each and every sin MUST be paid IN FULL. If we do not go to the Cross with our sins, and say, “This is the only place my sins can be forgiven”, then the gift hasn’t been received. And if God accepts us without going through the Cross, Without the penalty being paid, God no longer remains Holy.
While on that Cross, as Jesus was suspended between heaven and earth, between us sinners and the Holy God, the penalty of all sins—my sins, your sins, everyone’s sins—was placed on Jesus, and for that moment, Jesus became The Sinner. Want a verse from the Bible to prove this? 2 Corinthians 5:21—“God put the wrong on him who never did anything wrong, so we could be put right with God.” (The Message)
And He did it for only one reason: Love! Yeshua! God Delivers, Saves, And Rescues! It’s the perfect name for the Perfect Gift—Yeshua — God Delivers, God Saves, And God Rescues! It Truly Is The Perfect Name For The Perfect Gift. Have you accepted the Gift for yourself? If not, how can you turn away from Him? Do not give your heart to the Baby in the Manger. Give your heart to The Man on the Cross.
As we approach Christmas, your Next Steps can be the most important ones of your life:
- If you have never felt the shame of your sins, felt the despair that comes from the Penalty of those sins, you need to. To know The Savior is to know we’re a sinner.
- If you are struggling right now with that penalty—then struggle no more. God Delivers, God Saves, And God Rescues! And that, my friends is the Perfect Name for the Perfect Gift!