Read Matthew 1:21 and Luke 1:13
Our queen’s name, ELIZABETH means ‘My God is abundance’. Our Prime Minster’s name, DAVID means ‘Beloved’. My name, MATTHEW means ‘Loved by God‘. What about you? Do you know what your name means? (If you’re not sure, check out: http://www.behindthename.com). Most names mean something.
In almost every culture, people chose names because of their meaning. That was true in Britain for many years although over the last century people have picked names because they sounded nice! Choosing a name because it means something is important because, whether we realise it or not, names are closely linked to identity. That’s why entrepreneurs think carefully want they call their business or their latest product, and why, if we name our homes, we work hard to find an appropriate name.
So when God sent his Son into the world at the first Advent to be the Saviour, he wanted him to have a name that reflected who he was. That’s why the angel told Joseph not to follow the tradition of naming first-born sons after their father and call him JOSEPH, otherwise the baby would have been called ‘Addition’. No, he was to be called JESUS, which aptly meant ‘God saves’.
The same thing happened with John the Baptist. His father Zechariah was clearly told not to call him ZECHARIAH (which meant ‘God has Remembered’) and instead to name him JOHN, meaning ‘God is Gracious’.
God wanted John and Jesus to know who they were. To be secure in their identity. Because they were both called to significance. But living a life of significance is not always easy and usually involves criticism, opposition and suffering. For John and Jesus it involved all those things and more – in fact for both it involved martyrdom. To face opposition and be true to their calling these two men needed to be secure in their identity. That’s why Kris Vallotton is right when he says: ‘You can always tell the size of a man’s identity by the size of the problem it takes to discourage him.’
So if you’re easily discouraged, then use this Advent season to allow the Lord to strengthen your identity. He longs for you to know that you’re loved, chosen and adopted into his royal family. You are cherished, valued and embraced. You are forgiven, accepted and welcomed. You are empowered, envisioned and equipped. You are stronger than you think. More loved than you can imagine. By a God who is closer than you think. Who sent his Son with the nick-name Emmanuel, meaning ‘God with us’. God with you.
Do you know the true indentity of Christ? That he’s the Saviour. Of the world. And of you. And in the light of Christ, do you know who are you?
ACTION: Find out what your name means. Does this say something about who you are? Find out the names of other significant people in your life. Send them a note or text thanking them for who they are, and if their name reflects their character and calling, tell them and encourage them.
PRAY: That as you reflect on these Advent stories you’d be seeing more clearly who Christ is and that he’d be speaking his truth into your life about who you are, strengthening your identity. Pray that you would have an opportunity to encourage someone today, not just thanking them for something they’ve done, but speaking into the heart of their identity, by saying: ‘you are…’