But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
The naming of a child is important. Matthew tells us that before Jesus was born, an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream, informing him that the child Mary was carrying was conceived by the Holy Spirit, and that he should not fear to take Mary as his wife. Furthermore, the angel told Joseph what to name the child — He shall be called Jesus.
Jesus was a common name, the child who is God incarnate was given a name common to the time and place, one that by itself did not set him apart from the rest of the human race. Even though it was a common name, it was a very meaningful one. The name Jesus means “God is salvation.” Joseph is told that the child is to be given a name that would be a constant reminder of the saving grace of God.
This child born to Mary makes an important affirmation about God — God saves us. The name Jesus, then, tells us that God is the author of our salvation. But what does salvation mean? We so often hear it applied to being forgiven of our sins that we may miss its fuller impact.
One way to understand salvation is to grasp that God created us to have connection or communion with God. But to have that connection, we have to be changed to fit in this connection with God. Among the things that make us unfit are our sins, but in Jesus, God makes it possible for us to be transformed, to be in communion with God. For what God did in Jesus was to move us from being separated from God, to being in communion or fellowship with God in our life today and in the kingdom to come.
The name Joseph is told to give to Mary’s child proclaims to us that in this child “is God’s salvation.” Jesus is the way God provides for salvation to come to us. In the naming of Jesus, there is a powerful testimony to remind us of how God comes to us. No matter what we go through, God is present with us where we are with grace and love. That’s plenty of reason to celebrate the birth of the boy named Jesus throughout the new year.
May you have a happy and blessed New Year!
In the Name of Jesus,