What’s in a Name?

by Dec 16, 2019Christmas, Christmas 2019, Devotional

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. ~ John 1:6

I was named after my uncle. I never met him because he passed away before I was born. Our oldest son was named after my grandfather who passed when he was a toddler. My youngest son was named after a dear friend of my wife’s who passed away tragically. Each of us was named after someone who meant a great deal to our parents. And even though we didn’t know the people whose names we bear, it has marked each of us; though perhaps in ways that we are not often aware. In each of these instances, the naming is special. There is a sense in which the person after whom we were named lives on in us; as if their presence and influence defies the limits of time and death to carry on in our parents’ lives and into new generations. Names can be powerful. Names carry legacy.

Just as in His ministry, Jesus’ birth was preceded by John the Baptist. The gospel writers Luke and John both draw special attention to John’s name (Luke 1:14, 59-63 and John 1:6). John is the Greek rendering of the Hebrew Yochanan which means Yahweh is gracious. John was supposed to be named after his father Zechariah, whose name means Yahweh remembers. John’s name not only carries a legacy it builds on it. John’s name is not a rejection of his father’s legacy, it is its completion.

In the story of John we are told the story of Israel in miniature. His parents Zechariah and Elizabeth were childless and too old to produce children. They lived with the social stigma of being barren – considered a curse from God – and with the knowledge that their family would die with them. Some of us know it all too personally the grief they felt.

But God remembered and God was gracious.

What God did for this one faithful family, He was about to do for the whole world. Where there was despair, He would bring hope. Where there was darkness He would bring light. Where there was death, He would bring life. God remembered His people and His promise to them. And God was gracious. He sent His son to take away their shame and to give them a hope and a future.

Luke 1:57-80; John 1:6-13 and 19-28

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