The Names of the Christmas Child
What’s in a name?
We would normally do anything to protect our name. My surname Jayasooriya is spelled with the letters ‘soo’.., but pretty often, people spell it with ‘su’. I don’t mind it but I like it when my name is spelled correctly. From the days I was in school and even up till today, if you saw the figures or number 007, what would you think of, or who would you think of? That’s right, it’s James Bond! Right through my entire life the name Elvis Presley has been a very well known name. A name like Mohandas Gandhi is a very well known name. And for the more modern generation, who are into modern day entertainment, names like Luke Skywalker or Darth Vader are the kind of names that they are familiar with right now. For instance, if last Sunday we had announced that an internationally known preacher was speaking at this service on Sunday morning, I am sure that more people would have turned up just to hear him because the name carries some value with it.
For many years I worked as a Radio Broadcaster and we had a small following from around the nation. One day, I introduced three people on a radio program called ‘Record Jury”, and after the program… I’ll never forget this…one of the ladies who had come for the recording wanted me to give an autograph. That’s the only time somebody wanted my autograph! it so happened that I didn’t have a paper and she also didn’t have a paper in her hand. She however said, ‘I need to get this’. So, she pulled out a handkerchief and said “Can you sign on my handkerchief”, which I did. Now, if there was an auction in Colombo next week and this lady came and put that handkerchief into that auction, and said, ‘signed originally by Palitha Jayasooriya’, I can guarantee one thing. Nobody will buy that handkerchief! On the other hand, if she put it there and said, ‘originally signed by Michael Jackson’, I can assure you that there will be hundreds queuing up to bid for it and to pay the highest possible price to get that handkerchief into their hands.
Today is the week before Christmas Eve. So, as I prepared to share a short word about the Christmas story, the thought of the names of the Christmas child was in the back of my mind, and I thought that would be a good thing to share with you today. About the names surrounding the Christmas story or the baby that was to be born on that first Christmas day. And as I looked at the scriptures, I came across at least six names that identified the Savior, the child that was to be born, the baby that was going to be born on that first Christmas day. Now we all know that when a royal birth takes place, one of the key anticipations that people have is, ‘what is going to be the name of this new born royal child’? So they wait with much anticipation to get a glimpse of what the name will sound like. Isn’t it right therefore that when people look forward so much towards the name of a royal birth or a celebrity birth, that we, God’s people, should focus on the names of the Christmas child?
I want to therefore share with you four thoughts, four names, (I won’t share all six), but four names, and I’ll try to be as brief as possible in sharing.
Number one – Let’s look at Mathew 1:23 – “The virgin will be with child and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel – which means, “God with us”.
So the first name that I want to share with you this morning is the name Immanuel which stands for “God with us”! What an amazing fact of a Savior who identifies Himself with you and me and with all that is a part of our lives.
You know, when God created the world, he didn’t just throw down an instruction manual and tell human beings, ‘This is my manual. So live as best as you can according to this manual, and try to use it to guide your life and to survive in life, somehow or the other. This Creator God knew that you and I would face rejection, betrayal, pain, heartache, humiliation, sickness and all the other challenges that come against us in life. He knew that we would face these things in life. He knew that we are flesh and blood and that we face the battles of flesh and blood. He therefore decided that He would take on the form of you and me, the form of flesh and blood, so that He could identify with us perfectly; in the exact way that we face the pains and the rejections that we go through. In fact, we have a High Priest who is touched with our very infirmities and feelings, because He went through the same challenges we face, as He walked on this earth in true flesh and blood, as we do.
Pastor Dishan mentioned today about some of the funerals that we had this past week, and I was so blessed when I went to some of these funerals. Why? I saw how when Jananie’s mum was passing away, Pastor Srilal and Pastor Dilhani, who are her divisional leaders, rushed to the hospital just to be with her in that difficult moment, and to stand with her. Last Tuesday we were at the Pastors’ planning meeting when a call came that Pastor Chami’s father was passing away. Pastor Dharshan was chairing the meeting at that time but he left the meeting then and there. He said ‘you carry on with the meeting. I have to go. There is an emergency.’ We later found out that he left because he wanted to be with the family of Pastor Chami as his father was passing away. On Thursday night, after the Miracle Night, when I went home, I got a message from Brother Winant Juriansz, that one of his cell member’s father has passed away. I called immediately to find out what had happened and realized that Brother Winant and another brother in our church, Rajiv, had been with this family, as they went to the police station, and to the relevant authorities. They stayed with the family till they got the body released at twelve thirty in the night. Two of these families told me that it was a real strength to know that somebody was with them in their darkest moment.
Immanuel means, God with us.
We have heard of the legendary story of the 1995 South African rugby World Cup winning team that won the final. Cassie Carstens, who was the chaplain of that team has been to our church many times. They say that the one of the strongest motivations for that team to win the World Cup, was that at the final, the President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, personally attended the game, wearing a South African rugby jersey. People believe that was the strongest motivation that the winning team had.
When somebody is with us, we know what a strength it is. How much more, when the great God, in the form of Immanuel, meaning ‘God with us’, has come to be with us? So, whatever battles you are facing this Christmas season, and if you are maybe asking, as the song by Merle Haggard goes, ‘will I make it through December’?, let me assure you that Immanuel is with you. He will never leave you; He will never forsake you. Because one thing is sure, Immanuel means, ‘God with us’. And if God says He will be with you, He will surely be with you in all certainty. He will never fail you.
The second name of the Christmas Child is found in Mathew 2: 2 – “The Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, ‘Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him’.”
What a beautiful part of the Christmas story. The Magi coming to see Jesus and we don’t know how many were there. They say maybe three, maybe more, maybe less, but we don’t know. The Magi came from far away. There’s even a traditional story that a Sri Lankan was one of the Magi. We don’t know how true that is. But anyway, they came from far places; from different parts of the world. Maybe they joined up together at some point, followed the star, and came to their destination. But when they came, they asked a question. The question they asked is, “Where is He, who is born King of the Jews?”
That’s the second name –
2 The King of the Jews
It’s wonderful to know that Jesus was called a King at His birth. While He lived, He proclaimed a Kingdom. And at His death, it was mentioned on the cross “King of the Jews.” Later on, the scriptures reveal Him as, ‘the King of kings, and the Lord of lords.” This baby who was born was called the ‘King of the Jews’.
You know, already around the world, many people have marked the date ‘May 19th 2018’ in their calendars. In case you are wondering what’s happening on that day, well, it’s the day on which Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are getting married. So many people around the world, even though they will never get an invitation to the wedding, have already marked the date. They want to make sure that they will not miss the ceremony, either on radio, or TV, or satellite, or whatever. This is how a normal king is heralded – Not yet a king actually – and yet, most of us will not get an invitation for that wedding. But when King Jesus invites us, He says, “Come unto Me, the King of kings, the Lord of lords, all you who are weary and heavy burdened and find rest for your souls.” He gives us an invitation every day to come unto Him and to find rest for our souls. Jesus was called a King at birth. He was called a King at death. He often proclaimed the Kingdom of God. He is now called the King of kings and the Lord of lords.
Today’s entertainment, especially in the form of movies and books, has a lot to do with the galaxy, the outer world, the universe. We have teams like Guardians of the Galaxy, the Avengers, Star Wars Jedi, the Fantastic Four, Justice League etc. These are people who are trying to save the galaxy from catastrophe. But I want to tell you one thing very clearly today. There’s only one real King and one real Lord of the entire galaxy, of the entire universe, of all of creation, and His birth is what we will be celebrating in a few days from now. He is the King of kings, He is the Lord of lords. There will never be another King of kings in all of history. There will never be another Lord of lords in all of history. Because when the Magi came to see Jesus, they asked, “Where is He who is born the King of the Jews.” This morning, I think it is good for us to stand for a minute and to give glory to the King of kings and the Lord of lords in worship.
The third name of the Christmas child is found in Mathew chapter 1: 21 “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
What an amazing statement! You are to have a child and you are to give him the name Jesus, for He is going to save his people. What a beautiful name, Jesus! I know this sounds very simplistic, but please, if Jesus has saved you, would you raise your hand and acknowledge it. The Lord saves. That’s what the name Jesus means. And I am sure that in every one of those raised hands, there is a powerful story. I wish we could use all your stories at some time or the other. You carry a powerful story about the saving grace of God in your life. A powerful story of an amazing transformation that happened, because Jesus saves! And we thank God for that name.
You know, the birth of our Lord, was prophesied so many times over. His name was prophesied. The town in which He would be born was prophesied – Bethlehem. The virgin birth was prophesied. The coming of the wise men was prophesied. Nazareth was prophesied. The fact that He would go to Egypt was prophesied. The birth of John was prophesied. His Kingdom was prophesied. Why? Because His name was not like any other name. It was the name that would cut history in two parts forever. Even today, when you sign any document or any letter, you proclaim the fact that He has changed and altered the course of history. How? It’s when you put the date on that document.
Jesus saves from sin. Sin is the most destructive force in the world, far greater than the nuclear weapons that any country has. There’s talk about North Korea, there’s all kinds of news items about nuclear weaponry. But that power is nothing compared to the destructive power of sin, because sin destroys you forever. But Jesus came to save people from their sin. That’s why He died.
Today, if there is anybody here who has never, ever opened your heart to receive the forgiving grace, the saving grace of Jesus in your life, I pray that as we do our closing prayer, that you would make a commitment to the Lord. I did so at the age of sixteen and I have never, ever regretted making that decision in my life. Not only that, Jesus gives us eternal life.
When you go for funerals, as I’ve done by attending three funerals over the past week, what is the hope we can give? The person is dead! No more breath, no more warmth, we will never see the person again on this earth. But we have a greater hope, because of Jesus and His salvation. It’s the hope of eternal life! So share that salvation, the message of that salvation, with everybody you meet. Because that is the greatest message a man or a woman could receive. It’s the greatest message that anyone could hear. Angie sang that beautiful song today, ‘Jesus, Oh what a wonderful child’. Yes, oh what a wonderful child! What a wonderful child, what a wonderful name. In that name, bodies have been healed, marriages have been restored, lives have been transformed and the future course of peoples lives have been turned around remarkably.
Yesterday, I was at a program downstairs which was for HIV patients. There were about seventy five adults, and seventy children in that program. It was wonderful to see their desire to receive God’s blessing upon their lives. But during the program, they played the testimony of a brother in our church. His name was Kumar. They put a picture of this person on this screen when he was seriously ill in hospital. His organs were packing up. His kidney, liver, they were all packing up. When the pastors went to pray, they were told to prepare for the funeral. His wife was pregnant at that time and she was told that he would probably not see the birth of the child. But then, Jesus came into the picture. And actually, what happened thereafter is connected to the next name in my sermon. I’ll come to that in a while. But, that brother was miraculously healed by the power of God. Not only did he see the birth of his child, I think this is his second child, but he also saw the birth of his third child. And you know what? He was physically present to give thanks to God, with his wife and his children!
So, if you are happy for the name of Jesus, let’s give the Lord a clap offering in worship right now! Let’s look at the first three names again. Immanuel, the King of the Jews, Jesus, and the fourth and the final name is, I earlier said there were six names. I’ll give you the fifth and sixth as well. The fifth is the ‘Word’ and the sixth is, He is called the ‘Light of the World’. I won’t touch on those two today, as there’s no time. But the fourth name is the name Messiah.
Let’s look at Mathew chapter 2:4 “When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and the teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born.”
This is Herod, by the way. That word Christ, the meaning of that word is Messiah. Messiah was the dream of the Jewish nation. Messiah was the dream of God’s people. Messiah was who everybody was looking for. And Messiah means…actually it’s more than a name, the name Christ is actually a title. It’s a title which only our Lord has and it means ‘The Anointed one’. When Jesus came to this world, He said “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me. For He has anointed me to preach the gospel, to heal the sick, to give sight to the blind..”, and He went on to describe what He was anointed to do. He’s called ‘The Anointed One’, because He is the God of miracles.
I would be naïve to believe that while you are preparing for Christmas Day, that everything is perfectly well with you. We are human and face many challenges. The whole of last week I battled with the horrible flu that was going around. It wasn’t pleasant at all. To add to it, I got an eye infection. That wasn’t pleasant too. And all of you, I am sure, are battling something or the other in your life. But this is where the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One can make a difference.
I know that we prayed for you this morning. Even as you were prayed over, would you believe this morning that the Anointed One, the Messiah, the Christ, has heard your cry, and that He is the One who will give you the victory and the answer in whatever challenge you are battling right now. I also realize that some may not have any problem right now. If so, that’s great, praise God for that. But I know that there are many battling all kinds of difficult situations in your life. And you know what? When the Messiah, when Jesus, when Immanuel, when the King is with us, our joy is not built on how prosperous our Christmas can be. Our joy is not built on how many gifts we receive. Our joy is not built on all the good will we receive from people. But our joy is received by the fact, the absolute fact, the reality that the Messiah, the Anointed One is with us. He will never leave us. He will never forsake us.
I also mentioned in passing, about two other names of the Christmas child. They are, the ‘Word of God’ and the ‘Light of the World’. Those names are found in John’s Gospel chapter one. I would like to close with one of those names, recorded in John 1:5. As I read this verse in the New Living Translation, it hit me like a bullet. It hit me between the eyes when I read it. Look at what it says. It says, “The Light shines in the darkness.” Did you get that? “The Light shines in the darkness”. But look at what the second part says. It says, “And the darkness can never”.., will you say that word with me, ‘never’, say it together, ‘never’, one more time, ‘never’. “And the darkness can NEVER extinguish the Light”. Let’s say it again, “The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish that Light”. Why? Because that Light is the Light that lights up the entire world. And His name is Jesus.
God bless you all and may have a memorable Christmas!
(This is a transcript of a sermon that was preached at the People’s Church in Sri Lanka in December 2017. To see the video of this sermon, please click the link below).