Troublesome Topic: MEASURED BY THEIR NAMES A Summary of the Names in the Nativity Story

In the end the “One who Had Increased and Become Exalted” (Augustus) turned out to be a big deal in some ways, but not in the ways that matter.

“The One Who Is Increasing” (Joseph) did increase, although slowly. While we never read of any great accomplishment on his part, the entire world respects the man. He died young, unable to witness the redemptive work of the son for whom he was a surrogate father. During his life not many people knew his name. But a few decades after he died that began to change and he became an individual people admired. This favorable reputation has lasted for centuries.

            I ask you, “How many people do you know of by the name Augustus? How many people do you know of by the name Joseph?” The answer tells us which one increased the most in the ways that really matter. If people name their son after one of these men, it is because they admire that man and want their son to have the notable qualities he demonstrated. This is the ultimate measure of the increase of a man.

            “The Rebellious One” (Mary) was not rebellious against God, in fact she submitted herself to a special but very difficult task. She was willing to pay the high price of rejection in order to be God’s vehicle for bringing His Son, our Savior, into the world.

            Through the use of someone with the name “The Rebellious One” God was teaching us several lessons. He loves and accepts rebellious people. He sent his son to ordinary people like you and me, to people who have spiritual problems rather than to people who seem to have it all together. But just because we may have been rebellious against God in the past does not mean we are beyond change. God can mold us into a vessel he can use despite our weaknesses. In this way the coming of God’s son identifies with us on a level that is shocking to obverse but encouraging as well.

            “The One whom the Eternal and Personal God Remembers” (Zachariah) should have taken a lesson from his own name. He should never have stopped believing it was true. No matter how dark the situation we find ourselves in, nor how long the trial may last, we need to remember that God does remember us even though it feels like he doesn’t. We don’t have to go through that trial alone. We are always in His sight, and He is willing to help us if we will submit to him and obey him. He will work in us to make us more like Him; however, He may or may not work to change our surroundings.

            “The One who Had Bound Herself with an Oath to Give All Her Allegiance to God” (Elizabeth) followed through on her “oath.” She lived according to her name and was ultimately blessed for it. We likewise should bind ourselves to give all our allegiance to the God of the Bible. If we do so, we will find joy and we will be used in ways we never expected, to fulfill God’s purpose on this earth.

            We should never be like “The Self-proclaimed Hero” (Herod), even in small measures. The man proved by his actions that he was a monster, not a hero. He mocked his own name because he cared only about himself, while a true hero is willing to risk life and limb on behalf of others.
We should avoid pride and self-centeredness in all its forms and seek to reject even the smallest temptations in their direction. Pride and Self-centeredness do not know the word “enough;” they will always grow. If unchecked they will consume the one who has embraced them just like Herod was consumed from the inside by worms.

Also, let us not be like Mary and Joseph’s parents and relatives who rejected them. Let us be among those who look for the hand of God to work among us even if His methods of working do not fit our expectations. The fact that their names are not mentioned in the parts of the New Testament that tell us the story of Jesus’ birth (only in the genealogies) is itself a form of emphasis. It emphasizes that they made the wrong choice when faced with something they could not understand. It emphasizes that we should not be like them.

How about you? Do you claim to be a follower of Christ by wearing the name “Christian,” which means “little Christ”? If so, you should evaluate carefully if you are indeed living according to that name or if you are making a mockery of it.

We should all receive encouragement from the fact that God chose as the first recipients of the announcement of the arrival of the Savior a group of social outcasts. This is the kind of person God loves to work with and through. Therefore we should not concern ourselves much about what others think of us, but rather concern ourselves only with what God thinks of us.

“The Holy Sprout” (Nazareth) was located in “The Heathen Circle” (Galilee). It is often true to life that good things and good people are surrounded by evil circumstances. We can let this cause us to worry, or we can see that a small light seems to shine brightest when the darkness around it is deepest.

It is interesting that The Savior’s parents were told to flee to “The Land Bound by Sin” (Egypt) and then return from there. It seems that God wanted His Son, The Savior, to identify with sin without committing any sin. The statement, “Out of Egypt I called my son” demonstrated that balance perfectly. God is constantly calling us to leave sin and go to him. Have you responded to that call?