December 18, 2022: The Name of Jesus

Nativity scene outside church in winter

Fourth Sunday of Advent

The Name of Jesus

Expecting an addition to the family, parents ask, “How should we name her or him?” After a favorite uncle or aunt? A name we make up, never used before? The family name of some ancestor? A biblical name? A name unique to our ethnic group?

Today’s Gospel is about Joseph having a dream that tells him what to name the child Mary is expecting. Naming is not up to Mary or Joseph: “You are to name him Jesus.” This is a form of the common Jewish name Joshua, which means “God saves.” God wants to bring humanity back to God, since we have chosen to separate ourselves from God and God’s hopes for us.

But this story is not just about Joseph. It is also about us and Jesus, the one who will be born to Mary. This story is telling us that Jesus is God’s plan to save us, to fix our broken ways of living. Jesus shows us what God looks like in human form. Jesus shows what humans may be capable of. Jesus shows God’s willingness to accept the worse from human systems of religion and government. Jesus invites us to follow him into a fuller, richer life, in tune with God’s hopes to see God’s reflection in those God has created.

Moravian hymn writer Benjamin LaTrobe declared,
Jesus’ name, Jesus’ name,
Source of life and happiness . . .
None need sink in hopeless sadness,
for Immanuel is now with us,
God with us, God with us.

(Moravian Book of Worship, #324)

Not only in one season but every day, let us celebrate the message that came to Joseph. And may we allow that Jesus truly to touch and reshape our lives, so that we live in ways closer to God’s hopes for us.

Hermann Weinlick, retired pastor, Minneapolis, Minnesota