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January 16, 2022 | Doug Sauder
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“See, the virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and they will name Him Immanuel, which is translated ‘God is with us.’”—Matthew 1:23 (HCSB)
“What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." These well-known words spoken by Juliet Capulet in Shakespeare’s most famous work, Romeo and Juliet, posits that a name is an artificial and meaningless convention . . . that it truly has no importance.
This one line essentially summarizes the central struggle and tragedy of the play. And for the most part, the young Capulet is correct. A person’s given name shouldn’t define them; it is not a justification for stereotyping or for unjustified hatred of someone you don’t even know. However, while our names have become artificial and meaningless, the names attributed to God are of the utmost significance. From El Shaddai, which means “the Lord Almighty,” to Jehovah-Raah, which means “the Lord my Shepherd,” to El Olam, which means “the everlasting God,” every name of God in the Bible reveals something about Him. Of all of God’s names, my favorite is Immanuel (Matthew 1:23).
A little context: After finding out Mary was pregnant, Joseph decided to call off the engagement quietly because he was a righteous man. But before he could go through with the breakup, he was visited in a dream by the angel Gabriel, who confirmed to him that Mary’s story was true! In Matthew 1:20–21 (HCSB), he says, “Joseph, son of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because what has been conceived in her is by the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to name Him Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.” And then he proceeds to quote the prophet Isaiah, who said, “The virgin will conceive, have a son, and name him Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14 HCSB). He then tells us Immanuel means: “God is with us.”
I love this passage. I love this name. There is so much power, comfort, and beauty in it. For me, it makes a definitive statement that says this child Jesus was indeed the Son of God, the promised Messiah, the seed of Abraham, the eternal heir to David’s throne.
This also brings to mind another passage in the Gospels that speaks of the eternal Word who “became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14 NIV). But before we get there, John 1:1–2 (NIV) tells us that, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.” Here, the apostle John tells us that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the living embodiment of the Word of God. He is God in the flesh; the One who spoke the will of the Lord into being in the beginning (Genesis 1:1–2:3; Psalm 33:9; Hebrews 11:3). He is the character, heart, will, and mind of God the Father as revealed to the world.
As you get ready to celebrate with family and friends, and worship at church on Christmas Eve tomorrow, remember that Immanuel came to make a way for all to know God deeply and intimately, to save us from our sins, to transform our hearts, to renew our minds, and to bring our spirits to life (John 1:4–5). The Son of God left heaven so that we would have “the right to become children of God” (John 1:12 NIV). He made His dwelling among us, died for us, and now makes His dwelling within us. Oh, what a beautiful name this is!
Danny Saavedra is a licensed minister who has served on staff at Calvary since 2012, managing the Calvary Devotional and digital discipleship resources. He has a Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling and Master of Divinity in Pastoral Ministry from Liberty Theological Seminary. His wife Stephanie, son Jude, and daughter Zoe share a love of Star Wars, good food, having friends over for dinner, and studying the Word together as a family.