The story of a <em>gift</em> more than a birth

If you’ve gone through life with a name that you didn’t necessarily appreciate, then you know how important a name can be.

Parents put a lot of thought into what they should name their children. They might even agonize over a name. As psychologist and name expert named Cleveland Evans put it, “Names tell you more about the parents than about the kids.”

In Scripture parents sometimes gave names to their children that described what happened at the birth. For example, when the twins Jacob and Esau were born, Jacob was born holding on to his brother’s heel, so they named him Jacob, which means “heel catcher.”

Then there was the woman who was about to give birth when she heard the news that her husband and father-in-law were dead and the Ark of the Covenant had been captured. So she named her child Ichabod, meaning “Where is the glory?” and said, “Israel’s glory is gone” (1 Samuel 4:21 NLT).

And in the first chapter of Matthew we read that an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (verses 20–21 NKJV).

The name Jesus, from the Hebrew word Yeshua, means “Jehovah is salvation.” It’s the name that divides human time. It’s also the name that everyone will bow before one day, because the Bible says, “At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and … every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10–11 NKJV).

There is so much in the name of Jesus for us to discover. Writing some 700 years before the birth of Jesus, the prophet Isaiah gave us a glimpse into the attributes of Jesus. In this prophetic passage, which is often cited during the Christmas season, he said, “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6 NKJV).

The story of Jesus Christ coming into this world isn’t so much the story of a birth as it is the story of a gift. For us, it was the entrance of Jesus to Planet Earth. But for God the Father, it was the departure of his Son from Heaven.

The first Christmas was not a gift to a child; it was the gift of a child. Jesus said, “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 NLT).

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We sometimes think that when Jesus was born into the human race in Bethlehem, he essentially made his entrance into the universe. But we need to understand that the birth of Jesus wasn’t his beginning; rather, it was His entrance to this world as the Messiah of Israel and the Savior of the world.

Jesus, being God, always was. He was without beginning and without end. Another messianic Scripture often quoted at Christmas is Micah 5:2, which says, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting” (NKJV).

We could translate the word everlasting as “from the vanishing point.” Micah was revealing by the Holy Spirit that the Messiah, God in human form, would be born in Bethlehem. The great miracle of Christmas was when God became a man.

It’s also interesting to note that each description Isaiah gave of Jesus deals with an important area of our lives. Wonderful takes care of the dullness of life. We no longer have to look to this world for cheap substitutes like excitement and fulfillment. Jesus Christ makes life wonderful.

Counselor takes care of the decisions of life. We no longer have to be baffled by the problems of life, wondering what step to take next. With Jesus Christ as our counselor, we have the wisdom we need to make the decisions of life.

Mighty God takes care of the demands of life. And life is demanding, isn’t it? Sometimes we can be overwhelmed with all that it dishes out. But the Bible tells us that we “can do everything through Christ, who gives [us] strength” (Philippians 4:13 NLT).

Everlasting Father takes care of our future lives. Knowing that we will spend all eternity with him, we as Christians don’t have to be afraid of death.

Prince of Peace takes care of the disturbances of life. And certainly there is a lot to disturb us in the times in which we’re living. But with Christ in our hearts, we know that he will give us peace.

The Bible teaches there is coming a day when Christ himself will return to this earth and establish his kingdom. There will be no more corruption in government. There will be no more global terrorism. He will reign righteously as King of kings and Lord of lords.

And here’s the good news. You don’t have to wait for his return to experience his rule in your life. You can experience it today, because Jesus, Mighty God, wants to be your Everlasting Father. He wants to show you how wonderful he is as he counsels you and floods your life with his peace, “which surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7 NKJV).

So what’s in a name? That all depends on whose name it is. If it’s the name of Jesus Christ, there’s a lot in that name. It’s the name above every name.

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