I love that on this day we celebrate the birth of a baby.
As any mother would tell you–with every ounce of expertise it takes to make such a claim– babies are miracles. In and of itself, the birth of a child is worth celebrating.
But December 25th is more than that.
December 25th isn’t special because it is Jesus’ actual birthday (December 25th was a national Roman Holiday to honor the sun god, but the early generations of Christians took advantage of the day off to celebrate Jesus).
December 25th is special because it is the day recognized world-wide–by thousands who don’t even profess faith in our God–to celebrate Jesus’ birth.
Because wound up in his birth is a promise and a calling.
My husband and I have began discussing the name of our future child.
Today, names are chosen and given for any number of reasons: Some children are named after relatives, friends, or famous people (from hollywood or history) that their parents admire. Often, it seems we choose our children’s names just because we like them.
If you read the Old Testament history of the Hebrew (Jewish) people, you will find that their names were given for quite different reasons. Their names (i.e. the words themselves) meant something: one’s name often defined or reflected one’s existence, calling, and standing with God.
Have you ever thought about the meaning of Jesus’ name?
“Jesus” is the English rendition of Jesus’ Greek name (which was actually pronounced more like “EE ya zos”). However, his Hebrew given name was “Yeshua” (remember, he was born a Jew). This is the name that has been brought into English with the pronunciation “Joshua.”
If you break the name down, you get two main parts. The first part comes from the noun “yasha” which means deliver or save. This is followed by what was a very common construct in Hebrew names, the last “ah” sound. This is a shortened form of God’s name: “Yahweh.” The name Jesus/Yeshua means simply “God saves.”
I think that the fact that the name “Yahweh” is a part of Jesus’ name is significant. It is difficult to understand the distinction of the words used to speak of God when we read the Bible in English. There are several Hebrew words used for God. To put it very simply….
– “El” or “Elohim” are more generic words meaning “god” (little g) or “God” (big G).
-“Adonai” means “Lord.”
-“Yahweh” was the name of the Hebrew God. However, because the name was so sacred, they did not usually say it out loud. Although “Yahweh” is written throughout the Old Testament, “Adonai” (Lord) was what was spoken out loud. In English Bibles, if you see “Lord” then the original Hebrew word was “Adonai”–but if you see LORD (in all caps), the original Hebrew word was “Yahweh.”
Jesus’ name could have been “Yesh-el” or “Yesh-adonai” which would also mean “God saves.” But it isn’t, it is “Yeshua.” The God who saves us has a name and was the personal God of a chosen people. The God who saves us is a personal God so revered that his name was not spoken out loud. And yet he was born in a stable. He came as a tiny baby. With a calling and a promise. And in this strange, beautiful, wonderful way, He saves us from ourselves.
What a beautiful, miraculous, humbling, amazing day.