Friday, December 14, 2012

What Shall We Call the Child?

For a Child has to been born for us, a Son given to us; authority rests upon His shoulders; and He is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9.6)

Settling on a name is prime component of our excitement over a new baby’s arrival. The first question we usually ask on hearing a child is on the way is, “What will you call it?” The details about the chosen name’s origins and the decision to call a child by that name contribute to one of the first stories about her/him. Naming sets the course for who they’ll become, because we tend to grow into our names. Over time, we start to look, sound, and act like them. Even before people meet us, hearing what we’re called invites them to picture us a certain way.

The prophets were keenly attuned a name’s power to shape how one is seen. So were the gospel writers. That's why the prophecies and Christmas narratives make a point of declaring the Promised One’s name. In Matthew, He’s called “Immanuel,” meaning “God with us.” In Luke, the angel instructs Mary to name Him “Jesus”—a derivative of “Joshua” (or “Yahweh saves”), so named for the great Old Testament warrior who led Israel into the Promised Land. In the Old Testament, the most famous naming of the Christ is found in Isaiah: “He is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” In all of these cases, the naming of Christ is the vital first chapter in God’s redemptive story. But more than that, the prophets and gospel writers understood that giving God Incarnate the right name would shape how we see the God Who understands us and dwells among us.

As we ponder the Infant’s imminent arrival, we should wonder, “What shall we call the Child?” And that question requires us to consider Who we need—and want—Christ to be for us. There is no limit to the role Christ can and will play in our lives. Most certainly, if we call Christ “Immanuel,” the presence of God will be known to us. As “Jesus,” Christ will reveal God’s longing to save. Calling Christ “Wonderful Counselor” opens our eyes to divine wisdom and guidance. As our “Mighty God,” we place our trust in Christ’s power. As our “Everlasting Father,” Christ becomes the perfect Parent—the One Who loves us and remains faithful to us always. If we name Christ “Prince of Peace,” we honor Christ’s Lordship in our lives, finding order in our chaos and comfort in our distress.

So what shall we call the Babe of Bethlehem? “Everything”—our All in All, the Alpha and Omega, First and Last, our Anchor and our Hope—might be the best name of all. 

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