Different names for Christ are abundant in scripture. “Christ” comes from the Greek and “Messiah” comes from the Hebrew, and both mean “the Anointed One.” Jesus is called the Bread of Life (1 John 2:1), the Good Shepherd (John 10:11, 14), the Word of God (Revelations 19:13).
This year, as we meditate on the hope, love, joy, and peace of the Advent season, we also want to take time to meditate on how Scripture names Jesus and the implications those names have for our Christian witness in the world. In Matthew 1:21-23, the apostle writes:
“...She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
"All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 'Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel' (which means, God with us)." (ESV)
Before Jesus is even born, his names are loaded with meaning. Not only do the etymologies speak to God’s divine mission in the world—with Jesus meaning “to deliver/to rescue” and Immanuel meaning “God with us”— but the names of Jesus are used to remind Israel of God’s promises: this was prophesied hundreds of years ago. God is saying, “I was with you then, I am with you today, and I will be with you always.”
The Old Testament writers extensively prophecy of the coming of Christ. Many use names to demonstrate who Jesus will be and what his life and death will mean for the Israelites and beyond. Perhaps the most familiar is from Isaiah:
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6, ESV)
Each of these names is striking and specific. The prophet makes it clear who Jesus will be: wonderful and wise, powerful, nurturing, defender of the vulnerable and advocate for peace.
The past year has been another marked by division, sickness, and unrest. We continue to mourn racial and economic injustice, the lives lost or irreparably changed due to COVID-19, the continued destruction of our environment and the suffering of those affected by climate disaster. When consuming news of the world it is easy to feel despair. In the midst of this, however, we can take heart in the name of Immanuel, God with us, knowing that Christ is present through our struggles.
The Advent season reminds us that God keeps promises. We need not feel dismayed; instead, we get to engage in anticipatory and participatory hope as we await the coming of Christ and participate in bridging the “already” and the “not yet” of God’s Kingdom.
Join us this Advent season as we consider the names of Jesus and remind ourselves of the character of God: wise, powerful, champion of peace and justice, everlasting source of joy and life.
World Renew, Resonate, and the CRC Office of Social Justice are providing a devotional series for Advent 2021 called You Shall Call His Name Jesus. Subscribe today to receive email devotions every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday during Advent.
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