The Name: How Are You Called?

Most parents today get to choose names for their children. Sometimes they choose a family name; other times they choose a name that has a particular meaning or simply one that they like. Whatever the case, names are normally just beautiful words with nice meanings rather than deep identity statements.

It was different with Jesus. First off, his parents didn’t get to choose his name; it was given to them by an angel. And even though he had one common name (archaeologists have discovered over 70 “Yeshuas” in burial sites in first-century Palestine), he had other names as well that were remarkably uncommon. In fact, each of these names has a history and a deep meaning that motivated everyone who received the news to pay attention and respond.

During this Advent season, we are exploring four names given to this uncommon child and four stories of people who received the news and whose lives were changed forever. The response of each person to the news of Jesus’ coming was largely influenced by what he would be called. What did each of these names mean? What did each person imagine when they heard the name and how did that influence their response? In what sense did each person “believe in the name” and how did that shape their own story and identity?

As we hear these stories, we too have the opportunity to “believe in the name” (John 1:12; 20:31, Acts 10:43). What does this mean and how does it impact our own stories? How does coming to grips with Jesus’ name connect with owning our own name (Isa 65:15; Rev 2:17, 3:12)? What’s in a name, anyway?