In this lesson, Isaiah writes: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel.” In Sunday's Gospel, Matthew quotes Isaiah, adding the explanation “which means 'God is with us.'” The first name of Jesus is that he is God with us. I find it a great comfort that the very last thing Jesus tells his followers before his ascension is “And remember, I am with you always to the end of the age.” It is our introduction to Jesus, and it is his final reminder to us at his ascension.
He is with us always. He's here in our greatest joys and deepest sadness. He's here in our triumphs and deepest fears. He's with us in bed in the middle of the night when our guts are so upset that they do flip-flops and wake us. He's here at the birth of our children, and at the death of our loved ones. He's here when we don't know what to do. He's here in the hospital waiting room when we're falling apart. He's here, sometimes disguised as a human being, sometimes disguised as a sunset, or blue sky, or autumn leaves, or majestic mountain, or crystal lake. He's here with you reading this paper.
Despite God's command in Isaiah to name him Emmanuel, the angel in Matthew commands Joseph to name him “Jesus, for he will save people from their sins.” The name Jesus means “God saves.” So, all the signs along the highway that say “Jesus saves” are actually true, but redundant. Jesus is the Lord and God who saves us and who is always with us.
And as if those two names were not enough, we have “Rabbi,” our great teacher. The great physician who heals us. The Christ (Messiah), the anointed one. The Son of David, our great King. Our Lord and master (kyrios). The pre-existent Word (Logos) by which we understand God and everything. The Son of God and the Son of mortals. Both the wise men and Pontius Pilate name him the “King of the Jews.” John the Baptizer names him the sacrificial “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” The New Adam “undoes” our fall from grace in the Garden of Eden. And of course, there are all of his “I am” names: the bread of life, the light of the world, the sheep gate, the good shepherd, the Resurrection and the life, the true vine (and we are the branches), and the way the truth and the life.
Our great High Priest, the guardian and shepherd of our souls. The Alpha and Omega.
Some people count more than 200 names. Yet, there is no name that can describe him completely, for he is above and beyond every name. So at the manger, name him the silent name of love in your heart.