Less than a week out from celebrating the birth of Jesus we begin to plumb the depths of the concept of God becoming human, which is also known as the incarnation. This Sunday we enter these depths as we consider the names given to this child by God’s messenger the angel: ‘Jesus’ and ‘Emmanuel’!
The angels declares, “She will bear a Son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
To hear the name ‘Jesus’, to use it, rolls too quickly, too easily, too unthinkingly off our lips because it has been our currency in the church in recent years. We have grown accustomed to the idea that power is attached to Jesus name or we have filled the name with sentimentalism and romaticised it.
Throughout history the name and its pronunciation have been explored in different ways Jesus – Jesu, Yesu, Iesous, Ye’shua, Joshua - maybe using one of these other appellations is more helpful because it empties the imagery and connotation we have attached to the name ‘Jesus’.
In the ancient world and especially in the scriptures the meaning that lay behind the name was all important. Iesous means something like ‘he who saves’.
Here is the good news that the scriptures reveal in the words of the angel to Joseph ‘he who saves’ is going to be born.
Who is he saving and from what and for what?
Jesus comes to save me, Jesus comes to save you, Jesus comes for all people from all times, from all places. This is the moment in of all of history which defines the world in its relationship with God.
Jesus comes to save me and you personally and us corporately from our desire to put a death to God and to do away with belief in God. Jesus saves us from our rejection of living our lives in tune with God’s wondrous acts of creating this world, giving us the gift of our lives and the gift of each other.
The coming of ‘he who saves’ declares that we need to be saved from our predilection to pursue our self serving ends as if the life given to me revolves only around ‘me’: the pursuit of becoming like gods, just as Adam and Eve did. It this reality, which despite our denial, pops up again and again: in our hedonistic pursuits; in our blindness to those in need around us; and, in our litigious society that expects perfection.
Ye’shua, he who saves, releases us from the consequences of what we leave out of our lives and fail to do as those things which we do which cause harm to others and dishonour the one who made us.
Saved from the consequences of our actions and inaction we are set free to live again for God, for each other and for the creation without any sense of judgement or guilt hanging over us. We can live with joy and thanksgiving expressed in our worship, in our commitment to follow Jesus, in the expression of our compassion and care of others as we share in Jesus ministry.
The genesis of Yesu in our midst is God doing this new thing through ‘he who saves’, beginning with this new act of creation of Jesus’ life in Mary’s womb. Set from sin, set free to share in his life and ministry.