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There’s Something About That Name: Why Jesus is the Merry Christmas

December 13, 2015 Series: Christmas 2015

Topic: Matthew Scripture: Matthew 1:18–1:25

Good morning. Merry Christmas. Despite what it feels like outside, we know it is a Merry Christmas. We live by faith not by the thermometer.

Please turn in your Bibles to the Gospel of Matthew, and we will begin reading in verse eighteen.

Since what we are about to read comes to us today in the very authority of Immanuel, of Jesus of Nazareth, our mighty God, let’s stand in his honor as we read his word.

And the Spirit says:

“Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.” (Matthew 1:18–25 ESV)

One thing that is so much fun about our church is how many babies there are. It’s such a neat thing to see, so many young families, new families, new additions. Children are a blessing from the Lord.

And one of the interesting aspects of having children is deciding on the name. This is a big deal. You are deciding what your kid is going to be called the rest of their life. There are varying schools of thought when it comes to naming your baby. You can go the family route, you can go the hat-tip route, giving a tip of the hat to a friend or figure in history by giving your offspring their name. And then there are the people who guard the name till the baby is born. I always feel like that it is a gamble. What if you don’t stake your claim on the name and someone else happens to have the same name.

With our kids, we just liked the names. We weren’t sure what to name Ivy and then Natalie’s aunt said that if she every had a girl she’d name her Ivy. Hey, we like it. There we go. I wanted to name her Grace, because of God’s grace, so I got the middle name. With Oliver, Natalie liked it, and it did happen to be a family name.

Believe it or not, a lot of people today are naming their kids after their favorite Instagram filters.1 I’m not even kidding. Names like: Lux, Ludwig, Amaro, Reyes, and Kelvin. Surprisingly, the filter called X-Pro 2 hasn’t caught on.

We know it’s a little odd because on some level, we know that names are significant. They are a significant part of who we are.

Have you ever thought about why Jesus was named Jesus? Why not Bill? Ted? Why wasn’t he named Lil’ Joe? Jesus’s name actually means something. He wasn’t named Jesus because it was cute, or was inspired by a local artist. No, Jesus’s name means something. It shows us who he is. And it shows us what he came to do.

One of the first things we learn about Jesus from Matthew is that Jesus really was born. The eternal Son of God was born.

Jesus was a Real Live Baby Boy (v.18)

v. 18

Why does this matter? Why couldn’t he have just shown up as a man, just kind of appeared, like the angels did so many times? Why did the eternal Son of God become a baby in Mary’s womb?

Because he is an actual human. He wasn’t a halfsie human. He didn’t simply have the appearance of a human. No, Jesus was, and still is at this very moment, a man. In Greek mythology and other religions, the gods visit earth but they aren’t born, they just kinda show up. They aren’t one of us. Jesus became one of us.

I’m not a scrooge, but we need to chunk out sections of a few Christmas songs. It wasn’t a silent night. He cried. He was a baby. He wasn’t like those terrible movies, Baby Geniuses, talking and acting like a grown man at a month old. There wasn’t a gold halo around his head, “The cattle are lowing, the baby awakes, But little Lord Jesus no crying he makes.” Bah humbug that. He was a baby. Baby’s cry.

We lose the power and wonder of Jesus, God himself, being a human baby, if we turn him into an unbaby like baby. He would have had stinky diapers. He learned how to walk. No shortcuts.

So, it was an actual birth and it was from the Holy Spirit.

Just think about this. Joseph can tell Mary is pregnant. They are engaged. This is scandalous. This would have spread like wildfire across across their social circles. They are engaged, Mary is pregnant. It’s not Josephs’s. Grocery store magazine covers, the works.

One thing that gets commonly said about miracles in the Bible, when people object they say, “Well, of course they believed in miracles, like the Virgin birth, we know more about science today than they did.”

Listen, I think Joseph and everyone else in the 1st century understood where baby’s come from. Which is why he’s going to end this relationship quietly and not make a scene. So why does Joe stay with Mary?


An Angel shows up to Joseph and says, “Don’t fear. Mary hasn’t wronged you. God is at work. You are a part of something amazing. This baby has been supernaturally placed inside Mary’s womb by the Holy Spirit.”

And the Holy Spirit gives him a verbal ultrasound. The baby is a boy. And you will call him Jesus.

And verse 24 says, Joseph did all that the Angel commanded.

Joseph and Mary didn’t get to name Jesus. To be given a name means someone has authority over you, is in charge of you. Adam named the animals, not because God’s creative energy was low, but because he was to establish his authority over the animals. When Daniel and his three friends are taken away into Babylon, they are given new names, to say, “We are over you. You have a new life here. A new identity.”

Mary and Joseph aren’t allowed to name Jesus because they aren’t in control of him.

The second Jesus was born he was still older than both of them. The first time Mary fed Jesus, she had already depended on him for her breath, her food, and her salvation. His parents were stewards, they weren’t his superiors. They couldn’t give him an identity, a destiny, a vision for life.

The Triune God names Jesus. His name will be Jesus. Why is that? Why “Jesus?”

v. 21

“For he will save his people from their sins.”

The name Jesus is basically the equivalent of the Hebrew Joshua, which means, Yahweh Saves, God saves.

So, you shall call him, “God, Saves!” for he will save his people from their sins.

In the name of Jesus we learn who he is and what he does.

Jesus’s Name is a Declaration: God Saves Sinners (v.21)

He is a living declaration, “God saves!”, and he is the living demonstration, “I save people from their sins.”

His name explains who he is, God’s salvation, what he does—save sinners like us.

You will see all kinds of books and TV specials around Christmas time. The work of Jesus, “he sought out to overthrow the religious establishment and orchestrate a more humble, pious way of faith,” or, “He wanted to show humanity a better way to find peace within yourself and others,” “He wanted to reinterpret Judaism around his understanding of the Old Testament.” Garbage. He came to save.

The of first importance mission of Jesus, why he came, was to give his life as a ransom for many. To save us from our sins.

Whenever we hear his name we should hear the comfort, God saves! Whenever we say his name, we are testifying, “God saves!” When we pray in Jesus’s name, we are saying, “God saves!”

Listen to Spurgeon, when he says,

The names of Christ—they are all sweet in the believer’s ear. Whether he be called the Husband of the Church, her Bridegroom, her Friend; whether he be styled the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world—the King, the Prophet, or the Priest—every title of our Master—Shiloh, Emmanuel, Wonderful, the Mighty Counsellor—every name is like the honeycomb dropping with honey, and luscious are the drops that distil from it. But if there be one name sweeter than another in the believer’s ear, it is the name of Jesus. Jesus! it is the name which moves the harps of heaven to melody. Jesus! the life of all our joys.2

This is why Christianity is all about Christ, why we make much of Jesus, because the glorious good newis is that God saves! And he saves us from our sins by Jesus, with Jesus, and in Jesus. His death in our place on the cross, paying for our sins, saving us from them.

You see the aim of salvation? What Jesus’s name, what Jesus is dialed into saving us from?

What’s the aim of salvation? How do we usually talk about it?

Believe in Jesus, he will save you from Hell. That’s true. Believe in Jesus, he will save you and give you eternal life. That’s true.

But we cannot forget that Jesus, embedded into his name, he is the Savior, saving us from our sins. Our sins! Our crimes against God. Our complete and inability to meet God’s standard. Our anger, our lust, our unloving actions and attitudes, our selfishness, our sins. He saves us from them all.

What does it look like to be saved from sin?

As J.C. Ryle says:

“He saves them from the guilt of sin, by washing them in His own atoning blood. He saves them from the dominion of sin, by putting in their hearts the sanctifying Spirit. He saves them from the presence of sin, when He takes them out of this world to rest with him. He will save them from all the consequences of sin, when He shall give them a glorious body at the last day.”3

Jesus came to rescue us from them, to give us new life, new hope, and forgiveness.

This is why the Bible says, “Believe in his name.” Because his name means, God saves, so believe that God saves.

Do you believe that? This is one of the first messages of Christ, “God saves.” Jesus invites you to believe that he saves, not just in general, but that he can save you from your sins. If you want to be saved from your sins, Jesus extends his arms to you. Go to him.

And if you do believe that God saves, if the name of Jesus is a sweet sound to your heart, an peace that surpasses all understanding, you know what Merry Christmas means.

“Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity” (Psalms 32:1–2 ESV)

That’s the Merry Christmas. The Super Bowl of joy in the Christian life is here. How happy is the one who’s sins are forgiven and covered! Does that describe you today? Does the name of Jesus bring glad tidings of great joy to you this day?

Why not? Could it be that you only know his name, but don’t know him? Do you know him and the power of his resurrection?

A ho-hum attitude toward Jesus means you don’t understand Jesus, or you don’t understand your sin.

Did you see the other name of Jesus in the passage?

v. 22

The phrase, “To fulfill what was spoken”, occurs 12 times in the Gospel of Matthew. He keeps showing us how Jesus and his ministry answer, meet, realize the longings of the Old Testament.

You know the genealogy, Jesus’s family tree in chapter one? This is boring stuff to Americans. But the Bible says that every bit of God’s word is profitable to us, so we wee ned to ask why and how?

This shows us that Jesus really did have a family. He is a real live boy. He didn’t just pop out of the sky. But more specifically, he is the the promised Messiah, that he is the seed of Abraham—that’s Matthew 1:1. He is the promised messiah from King David’s line, and he is the promised one from Abraham, by whom all the nations would be blessed.

Matt. 1:

“Seed of Abraham” - The Law

“Son of David” - The Writings

“Virgin shall conceive…Immanuel” - The Prophets

All in Jesus.

The Old Testament and New Testament are stitched together in Jesus. Baby Jesus was knit together in his Mary’s womb, and he knits the Old Testament and the New Testament in himself.

Matthew is showing us already The entire Bible is magnetized to Jesus. The entire Bible, like all of history, like salvation, like the entire Christian life, like all of eternity, lands on Jesus. How?

v. 23

Because Jesus is Immanuel, which means God with us.

Jesus is the Real Live God (v.23)

Isaiah 7:14, where Matthew is quoting, shows that the Spirit’s word from Isaiah, hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus, had a long-range gospel missile under the surface.

Another legitimate name of Jesus, Immanuel.

But they named him Jesus, like the angel said. they didn’t call him Immanuel. Why does Matthew make this connection for us.

He is showing us that God is here, and his name is Jesus, God saves. “God is with us, God save us.” God is here to save to his people from their sins. As much as Jesus is Wonderful Counselor, Price of Peace, he is Immanuel.

He is always our Immanuel. He is always God with us. He isn’t with us in the flesh, but he is with us. He is in us. “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). Immanuel isn’t just a Christmastime theology—it’s the daily Christian life. Also, the first chapter of Matthew he says Jesus is God with us, in the last chapter of Matthew, in the Great Commission, Jesus says, “I’m with you always.” I am Immanuel.

Matthew shows who Jesus is and why it matters to or lives. He is God with us, and he will save his people from their sins.

You have sins you are sick of? Jesus will save you from them! It is definite. No maybes.

He’s saved you from the penalty of them, and he is saving you from the presence of them. Keep trusting Immanuel.

We need Jesus to be Jesus to us. Not Jesus, a spiritual advisor. Not Jesus a life-coach. Not Jesus a inspiration. Not a Jesus we want to name. But the name above all names, Jesus, Immanuel, God saves.

What does Jesus’s name mean to you? To know him for real brings the Merry Christmas, the merry life.

Don’t let it be just another name you say, don’t let his name mean about as much to you as an Instagram filter.

What does his name mean to you?

Let it be a sweet name to you. Stay close to his name. His name sets our lives.

  • “For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:13 ESV)
  • “You were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:11 ESV)
  • “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:17 ESV)
  • “Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.” (Hebrews 13:15 ESV)

God saves. Jesus be praised. Let’s pray in his name.

  1. ↩︎
  2. Charles H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings, Complete and unabridged; New modern edition. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2006). ↩︎
  3. J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels, Volume 1, 6. ↩︎