2015 is upon us, which means that the Christmas holiday has ended. When I look at it another way, the formal observance of Christ’s incarnation no longer holds sway. Everything associated with his first coming is a thing of the past. Who knows how many lost their senses during the New Year festivities? What I want to do with this entry is to refocus onto Christ’s first advent. It needs to occupy a little more space in our hearts. Before I proceed any further, here is the passage in front of us:
“And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb” (Luke 2:21, ESV).
I find this verse to be a curious one in the second chapter of Luke’s gospel. In the first seven verses, Luke records the journey made by Joseph and Mary from Nazareth to Bethlehem for the census and the birth of Christ (Luke 2:1-7, 11 ESV). Then, the gospel writer presents to the reader a glorious vision of angels seen by the shepherds about the Savior’s birth in addition to describing their subsequent visit to the young couple (Luke 2:8-20, ESV). The first twenty verses of Luke’s second chapter make it into hallmark cards, the Christmas carols, and scripture readings. They are wonderful verses displaying the grandeur of Christ’s birth, the prophecies fulfilled because of it, and the glory due God the Father (Luke 2:12-14 & 21, ESV).
Luke’s second chapter is essentially the Christmas story along with Matthew’s account in the second chapter of his gospel narrative. It is only in the former’s gospel where the details appear about Christ’s circumcision and being named. Where am I going with this? Today, January 2nd is exactly eight days after December 25th. Nearly 2000 years ago, Joseph and Mary obeyed their Jewish customs by circumcising their male child on the eighth day while giving him the name Jesus (Luke 2:21, ESV). What this verse demonstrates is the simple, but profound obedience of Joseph and Mary to God and his commands. They reveal their faith in God and his promises by circumcising their firstborn child and naming him Jesus as foretold to Mary by Gabriel (Luke 1:31-32; 2:21, ESV).
The name of Jesus is no small detail. In fact, this seems to be the emphasis of Luke at this point in the gospel narrative. In the Greek, the word for Jesus is Iesous, which means Jehovah is salvation or the Lord saves. This is no different than what Gabriel said to Mary about the nature and doings of her unborn son (Luke 1:32-33 & 35, ESV). In Hebrew, the equivalent word for Jesus is Yeshua or Yehoshua, which is the name of Joshua, who took over for Moses in order to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land. One day in the future, Jesus, who is the greater Joshua, will return for his people and lead them into the ultimate, promised land, the New Heavens and the New Earth (Hebrews 11:13-16; Rev. 21:1-4, ESV). This means that Christ’s first coming guarantees his second.
If the very name of Jesus means the Lord saves, then I think it behooves God’s people to marinate in that truth a little bit longer. It is wonderful to read about the Magi who visit Joseph and Mary with gifts for the baby Jesus (Matt. 2:11, ESV). I think it goes without saying that the angelic host appearing to the shepherds is highly inspirational. All of those points are historical facts and wonderful, gospel truths; however, the birth of the Savior reveals something deeper and fuller. Jesus not only opens the way of salvation for his people, but he is their salvation; consequently, he displays the Father’s salvation (John 14:6; Ephesians 1:7-10; Heb. 9:11-14 & 24-28, ESV). This is a monumental truth forever sealed by the Holy Spirit within the redeemed until that glorious day (Eph. 1:13-14, ESV).