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Has anyone ever forgotten your name? Or called you by the wrong name? It is a common experience: you are remembered, but your name is not. But a name is so intrinsic to our self-identity. It is given to us by another (for the most part) and it differentiates us from everyone else, even if the name is common.

Jesus was a common name in first century Palestine. Its Hebrew counterpart Joshua is given to over 30 individuals in the Old Testament. It is like John or Michael in our culture. Nothing special or interesting. But…

The name was given for a purpose. Matthew 1:21 gives Joseph the instructions. Mary’s child will be called Jesus. Why? Because he will save the people from their sins. We often think Christmas is a long way from the cross. Here we have pretty Hallmark picture of a sheltered stable where a baby lies on straw, adoring parents and curious shepherds looking on, and well-behaved animals in the shadows. But from this moment, the naming of the boy, his life’s work is set out before him. Save the people from their sins. Live the life of obedience in the sight of God an obedience that will take him to the cross. That is the shadow cast on this picture, across the faces of Mary and Joseph and the shepherds, and all of us to come to admire the newborn babe of Bethlehem. Our Advent preparations are a prelude to the cross. Jesus comes into the world for us, to save us. And we see it all begins in his name…JESUS…he will save the people from their sins… he will save you from your sins… he will save me from my sins.

Great God of heaven,
let us understand the saving mystery that is the life of Jesus Christ.
Let his work have its effect on us as we begin this Advent season.
You sent your Son into the world to free us from the chains of sin.
Let his name rise above every name this Christmas season. AMEN

If you missed an entry in our Advent devotions series, please click here to see all previously posted devotions.