"He shall be called Jesus." The Bible tells us that before Jesus was born, an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream informing him that the child Mary was carrying was conceived by the Holy Spirit and that he should not fear to take Mary as his wife. Further, the angel even told Joseph what to name the child: Jesus.
Jesus was a common name; it was the "Jim" of the first century. We know of one other person in the New Testament named Jesus. He was a companion to the apostle Paul and is mentioned in Colossians 4:11 in a list of people sending greetings to the church at Colossae. And Josephus, the first-century Jewish historian, mentions no fewer than 20 different men named Jesus.
Thus, the child whom God sent to be the Savior of the world was given a name common to the time and place, one that by itself did not set him apart from the rest of the human race. "Jesus" was the name that would have been entered into whatever official birth records were kept in those days. But while it was a common name, it was not a meaningless one. Jesus means "God is salvation." This child was given a name that would be a constant reminder of the saving grace of God.
"They shall call him Emmanuel." This is the other name given to Jesus as mentioned in the Bible, and, as Matthew hastens to tell us, it means "God is with us." Thus, between his given name, Jesus, and his symbolic name, Emmanuel, this child to be born to Mary gives us two important affirmations about God -- that God saves us and that God is with us.
You see, even in the naming of Jesus, there were two powerful testimonies to remind us of how God comes to us if we will allow him to. No matter what we go through, he is present with us where we are, and he comes bringing salvation. That's plenty of reason to celebrate the birth of the boy named Jesus!
In the name of the One who can do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine,
Bruce Jones, Pastor and Co-Creator,
Imagine Church of the Carolinas