Like most expectant parents, Steve and I considered dozens of names before each of our three children were born.
First of all, the name had to have a pleasing ring with our unusual last name, Ruegg (pronounced “rug”). We passed by Douglas. Doug Ruegg rings too loudly.
We wanted a name that would not attract teasing or silly nicknames. We passed by Dustin. Dusty Ruegg would be too tempting.
And we wanted a name that meant something worthwhile, so we passed by Darnell. “A-Type-of-Grass” Ruegg would not be very inspiring.
No doubt many of you who are parents experienced the same struggle to find appropriate names for your children.
Mary and Joseph, however, had no such struggle with their firstborn. The angel who visited Joseph in a dream to tell him about Mary’s child, also informed him of the name. “You are to give him the name Jesus,” he said (Matthew 1:21a).
And when an angel brought good news of great joy to the shepherds, he said, “A Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord (Luke 2:11).
These two scriptures give us the three names we probably use most often when referring to God’s Son: Jesus, Christ, and Lord.
And each name carries significant meaning.
Jesus, or Yeshua in Hebrew, means “Yahweh (the Lord) is Salvation.” Could a more perfect name be chosen for the One who would “save his people from their sins?” (Matthew 1:21b). Yeshua becomes “Joshua” when translated into English. And in Greek (the language in which the New Testament was written), Yeshua becomes Iesous, or Jesus in English.
Jesus, our Savior. The only perfect God-Man able to save us from the consequences of our sins. He is our supreme Christmas gift, given by God, because he loves us. Deeply.
Christ is English for Christos (Greek), which means “anointed.” In Hebrew the word would be moshiach, or “Messiah.”
Anointing was a God-ordained custom, to dedicate someone for a special task. You might remember the prophet, Samuel, anointed David to be king over Israel (1 Samuel 16). That is, Samuel took oil (probably olive oil) and poured it over David’s head, signifying divine equipping for his royal position.
Again, what could more appropriate than our Savior to be symbolically anointed by God? Jesus was divinely equipped for the special task of saving his people from their sins.
Lord is also a name bestowed on God’s Son. It is the name that is above every name. And the glorious day is coming when every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Philippians 2:9-11). Imagine that. Millions of voices proclaiming his majesty!
Lord is a familiar term, come down to us from feudal times in England, when kings and nobles were addressed as “lord.” It denoted power and influence.
The history of the word, though, reveals a fascinating connection to Jesus.
Lord is derived from a compound of two very early Old English words: hlaf (pronounced with a long “a”) and weard. Hlaf means “bread,” and weard means “ward” or “guardian.” Lord literally means “guardian of the bread.” In feudal times, such a position would be highly important to the household. And so lord came to mean “a man of authority and rank” (Webster’s New College Dictionary).
Such background gives new meaning to Jesus’ words, “The bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world…I am the bread of life” (John 6:33, 35a). In other words, he is the Sustainer of life. Whoever comes to him can experience deep satisfaction of spirit (v. 35).
Jesus stands as the guardian of our abundant life now and eternal life in heaven yet to come. He is also the guardian over of our minds and hearts, supplying peace, joy, comfort, and more.
Paul celebrated the magnificence of the Lord Jesus Christ at the close of Romans 8:
“I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (vs. 38-39).
And now, what do these names signify to me? Am I deeply grateful to my Lord Jesus Christ? Are my thoughts, attitudes, and actions pure and holy gifts I can give back him– my Savior, anointed Deliverer, and Guardian of my life?
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Lord Jesus, your very names proclaim astounding truths: you are the Savior of the world! In fact, you are the only Deliverer who can proclaim us “not guilty” before Almighty God. And you are our Guardian, caring for our every need, when we depend upon you. I praise and thank you for your love and grace, demonstrated supremely when you died in our stead. Oh how I want my life to be a delightful Christmas present for you!