Advent 2022 Devotion - Fourth Sunday in Advent

Advent 2022 Devotion - Fourth Sunday in Advent

December 18, 2022

What's In a Name?

By Rev Dr. Jaye Johnson
Director of Congregational Excellence & 
Interim Director of New Communities of Faith

 My full complete name is Jaye J Johnson. The initial J is my full middle name, so I do not put a period behind it. I tried to convince Amy that our first boy should be called Jaye J Johnson, Jr. but Amy thought that was just one too many J's for any kid. Amy has some relatives, and the boys in that family are named William. There is William Black, William Black Jr., William Black III, and William Black the IV. It's not Will or Billy, but William. The name William is significant to the Black family. It links the son with the father and his father, and his father's father. Choosing a child's name is very important for most parents, but what is in a name?

At the beginning of the space age, the couple in Detroit named their first child "Sputnik" after the Russian space capsule. Musician Frank Zappa named his daughter Moon Unit! How would you like to be called "Moon Unit Zappa?" The Chicago Tribune told about the woman who named her daughter "Nevaseea" because the girl's father died before she was born and “never saw her.” When Amy and I were thinking of names for our kids after she flatly rejected Jaye J Johnson, Jr., I wanted to name our child Araina, which is Greek for Peace. I liked the middle name Day, so I could say we saved money for “A-rain-a day!” It's no wonder 50,000 people a year go to court to have their names changed!

Biblically, a person's name represents their character. Your name was who you were and was frequently changed to match the person. God changed Abram's name to Abraham, meaning "the father of many," and so it was.

Jesus changed Simon's name to Peter, meaning "rock," Peter went on to be the Rock upon which Christ would build the church. And who, more than Judas, had a revealing name. Judas means condemned, trader! His folks did not think that one through!

I'm sure you all find this as fascinating as I do, but what does this have to do with Christmas? Eight hundred years before Jesus was even born, the prophet Isaiah spoke of the Messiah's birth and cried out:

"For unto us a child is born, Unto us, a Son is given, And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." (Is. 9:6)

The gospel of Matthew spells out exactly why the name of Jesus is so important. Joseph was in the midst of a crisis. His young fiancée Mary told him she was pregnant, but he knew he was not the father. Joseph came to understand in a dream, and he was told to name the child – Emmanuel God with us – Jesus. Jesus, the name above all names. In Jesus, this baby we bow down before is our salvation, power, healing, and our purpose. That is what is in his name. While we celebrate his birth this season, we know where the path leads. We know his future. We cannot and must not separate the reality of the cross from the celebration of his birth, for it is in his name – Emmanuel God with us. On this Advent, we prepare to celebrate the beginning of Jesus' earthly. What an excellent time to reaffirm our trust in the name of Jesus. May we each experience anew the Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace – Christ the Lord. Amen.

Prayer: For a child will be born for us, a son will be given to us, and the government will be on His shoulders. He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, and Prince of Peace. May we go forward with Jesus born anew within our hearts. We pray in the beautiful name of Jesus, the name above all names. Amen