Monday, December 20, 2010

Advent Baby Names

Recently in Formation Group we had an excellent discussion revolving around Matthew 1:18-25.

This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

But after he had considered 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 home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 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.”

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).

When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus. (NIV, emphasis mine)

The two prominent names for the Messiah in this passage are Jesus (savior from sin) and Immanuel (God with us). These two names are obviously closely related, pointing to different aspects of the mission and message of the incarnate Son. They point to, for example, the fact that this baby Jesus was born to die for sin (hence the name, Jesus). Sin demands payment, and only God could pay our debt (the futile repetition of the Old Testament sacrificial system and the failure of the offices of prophet-priest-king are more than sufficient to bear this out).

One of the beautiful truths that Immanuel brings out is that the point of Jesus dying for our sins is so that we could live with God forever. This is a point I've brought out before, that the main point of the gospel is life-with-God. Too many "gospel-centered" theologies forget this, making the gospel an end in itself, almost to the level of an idol. The incarnation itself is also a powerful reminder of this - God came to dwell with us! Hear these passages anew:

"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14 NIV).

"And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away”(Revelation 21:3-4 NIV)

Let's allow these two names of the Messiah (Jesus, Immanuel) room to play in our imaginations this Christmas. This baby, this weak and vulnerable God who made the universe and holds it all together came to die for our sins so we can be with him forever. How can we withhold our hearts and minds from him? How can we fail to trust such a tender warrior? He has given us everything he has, all the riches of heaven and earth; let us not be hesitant to give him everything of our daily lives, whether it be painful, joyful or mundane.

"Who can understand the riches of the glory of this grace? Here this rich and divine bridegroom Christ marries this poor, wicked harlot, redeems her from all her evil, and adorns her with all his goodness. Her sins cannot now destroy her, since they are laid upon Christ and swallowed up by him. And she has that righteousness in Christ, her husband, of which she may boast as of her own and which she can confidently display alongside her sins in the face of death and hell and say, ‘If I have sinned, yet my Christ, in whom I believe, has not sinned, and all his is mine and all mine is his.’” – Martin Luther, The Freedom of a Christian

1 comment:

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