CHRISTMAS THOUGHTS

THE NAMES OF THE CHRISTMAS CHILD - 1

For the reader who accepts the infallibility and authority of the Bible the names given to Jesus Christ before and immediatdly after his birth teach us a great deal about his itdentity. We will look this week at the names given in Matthew's Gospel and next week at the names given in Luke's Gospel.

Jesus

The angel who spoke to Joseph soon after the beginning of Mary's pregnancy said 'She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins' [Matthew 1:21].

'Jesus' is the Greek form of 'Joshua' and means 'God saves'.  Here in this name both the character of God as the Saviour, and the whole of God's eternal plan of salvation anticipated throughout the Old Testament in word and in symbol, is encompassed. Through this child, God proves himself to be the ultimate Saviour and implements the ultimate salvation.

Immanuel

' ... they will call him "Immanuel" - which means, "God with us."

This name speaks of incarnation: that in this child God comes to us, God takes on human flesh, and lives among us. Here in this child we see God, we know God, we believe in God, we receive God. This child and God the Father are one. This is the over-riding theme of John's Gospel [John 1:14; 10:30; 12:44-46; 14:6-9], and the claim of Christ that drew against him the charge of blasphemy and the opposition of the leaders of the Jews [John 5:18; 10:33].

Because of the reality of the meaning of this name, because of this incarnation, no one need every again ask 'Who is God?' or 'What is God like?' because here in this child is God's final and ultimate self-revelation. [Colossians 1:15a,19; 2:9; Hebrews 1:1-3].

King of the Jews

This is the name by which the wise men referred to the Christmas Child when they asked King Herod: 'Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?' [Matthew 2:2]. When they found him they knelt in worship.

This name confronts and challenges us: here before us in this Child, is the King. Not only the King of the Jews, but the King of kings, the Lord of lords [Revelation 19:16. The One who demands and commands our submission, our obedience, our loyalty. The One who calls us to honour him as King. The One through whose death God the Father rescues us from the kingdom of darkness, and brings us safe into his own Kingdom [Colossians 1:12,13], the kingdom of light, the kingdom of the Son he loves.

The shepherd 

In Matthew 2:5-6 a verse from the prophet Micah is quoted in which Jesus Christ is called 'the shepherd of my people Israel'. Ezekiel similarly taught that the anticipated King would be a shepherd [34:23]. While this name assures us of the loving care and security that this Christmas Child gives to his people, as Jesus taught in Luke 15 and John 10, it also identifies the Christmas Child as God: it is 'the Lord' who is our Shepherd [Psalm 23] and it is the Lord who is the anticipated Shepherd of Ezekiel [34:15,16].

My Son

In Matthew 2:15, in a quote from Hosea, the Christmas Child is called 'my Son'. We are confronted here with Christ as the divine Son who is of the same nature and essense as the Father. He is not God's Son in the same way humans may be called 'sons' of God, by virtue of creation by God; nor is he God's Son in the same way Christians may be called 'sons of God' through adoption by God [Ephesians 1:5] by virtue of salvation. The Christmas Child is the eternal Son of God who existed with the Father from eternity, and whom the Father sent into the world to be its ultimate Saviour[1 John 4:14].