Names matter. They certainly matter in the bible. A name wasn’t just a parental preference, it was meant to signify something. We can learn a lot from names. Take Gabriel, for example. It means ‘God is my strength’ – a perfect name for an angel. Mighty as Gabriel was, he knew where his true strength came from.
Or take Mary as another example: in today’s reading we get the iconic encounter between the angel and the young woman. The name Mary is most likely from the ancient Egyptian name ‘mry’ meaning ‘beloved’. Beloved of Joseph, certainly; but also beloved of God.
So God-is-my-strength meets The Beloved One – and promises a miraculous child. Not surprisingly, his name is important too. Jesus means ‘God saves’ – it is the updated version of the Old Testament name Joshua, the great hero of the Israelites who led his people into the promised land.
God was coming to save his people again. Only this time he would do it himself: ‘He will be called the Son of the Most High… his kingdom will never end.’ A greater rescuer, an eternal king.
Tomorrow we’ll deal with Mary’s shock – and her remarkable faith. But today let’s rejoice that Jesus lives up to his name. God saves, and his salvation is glorious. All the promises to Israel – to the prophets, to those waiting, for generation after generation – are coming to fulfilment. There is a new way back to God, a new hope for the renewal of our broken world.
‘Nazareth? Can anything good come from there?!’ So jokes the disciple Nathanael 30 years later (John 1: 46). Today we have our answer and it is emphatically yes. The Beloved One is promised the gift of the Messiah – God’s Son, salvation made flesh. A saviour not just for then, but for now. A Saviour for you and for me – for the whole world. It’s all in the name.
And may that beautiful truth lift your heart today.