The Message, December 18, 2022: "What Is His Name?" Matthew 1:18-25

The Message, December 18, 2022: "What Is His Name?" Matthew 1:18-25

Author: Rev. Scott W. Cousineau
December 20, 2022


“What Is His Name?”
A Message by Rev. Scott W. Cousineau
Matthew 1:18-25

            My Name is Scott William Cousineau. My surname, my last name, is derived from old French and not surprisingly it means … “cousin.”

            My middle name, William, comes from the old German, Wilhelm, and it means “resolute protector” or “strong-willed warrior.” As impressive as those sound, that is not why I was given that name. William is my middle name because it was my father’s first name.

            My first name, Scott, is old Anglo-Saxon and it means … “Scot” with one ‘t,’ a person from Scotland. That is not very surprising either and it is also not very interesting. However, I did a little more research and found that it also means “wanderer” or “painted warrior.”

            Obviously, I am destined to do battle on some mythical battlefield at some point in my long and storied life.

            Actually, legend has it that my future as wanderer or warrior were not part of the consideration in the naming process. The story goes that the name Scott was selected because it is a name that cannot be shortened. Just like my brothers, Eric and Gregg, who were also given names that cannot be shortened.

            However, it turns out that my name can be LENGTHENED. Scott can become Scotty and Scottso, and the even less desirable Scotty-Potty and Scottso-Potso.

            Apparently, the name Scott can also be easy to forget. (Or perhaps I am easy to forget.) In two of my previous churches there were people that called me Steve or Chris. Naturally, I did not want to embarrass those individuals by correcting their error, so I just answered to whatever they called me.

            In the narrative of Jesus’ birth, we see that Mary and Joseph did not need to have the conversation about what to name the baby. Of course, we can infer from our passage this morning that their initial conversations about the child were difficult. As we heard, Joseph was surprised to learn that Mary was ‘with child’ during their betrothal period. So surprised in fact, that he was prepared to dismiss her for violating their betrothal.

            But, as we also heard, that good and faithful man, that righteous man, was going to go against the proscriptions of the Law and dismiss her quietly. According to the Law, adultery during the betrothal period was punishable by death. Even before he heard from the angel, Joseph had chosen the gentler path. He would dismiss her quietly.

            But … back to the name. The angel, the messenger from God, visited Joseph and assured him. “Do not be afraid, Joseph. The child that Mary carries is born of the Holy Spirit. Do not dismiss her. Marry her. She will bear a son and you shall name him Jesus, for he will save the people from their sins.”

            That was quite a dream! There was a lot for Joseph to take in as he woke. ‘I was visited by an angel! Mary is carrying the child of the Holy Spirit! And we will name him Jesus because he will save the people from their sins!’ (Yeah … I have dreams like that all the time!)

            Of course, we know that Mary also was visited by an angel. And as it turns out, she also received the absolutely, incredibly, unbelievable news that she would have the Holy Spirit descend upon her, and that she would bear the son of the God Most High, and that he would be call the Son of God!

            After Joseph woke from his dream, he and Mary must have had quite a conversation. “I was visited by an angel!”
“I was visited by an angel too!”
“My angel told me that I would have a child by the Holy Spirit of God!”
“MY angel told me that you would have a child by the Holy Spirit!!”
“My angel said that he would be called the Son of God!!”
“My angel said that we should name him Jesus!”

            We will name him Jesus.

            Jesus is the Greek translation of the Hebrew name Yeshua … Joshua.

            Joshua was actually a very common name in the first century. Joshua means, Jehovah is salvation, or God saves.

            And the angel said, ‘you shall name him God Saves.’

            Salvation was part of the covenantal relationship with God. The ancient Hebrew sang of it in their psalms, “He will redeem Israel from all of its iniquities.” (Psalm 130:8) Salvation was understood to mean the continuing divine Presence was part of their ideal future.

            Then Matthew tied the angel’s message with the words of the Prophet Isaiah: “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call him Emmanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14)

            You shall call him Jesus … God Saves.

            He shall be called Emmanuel … God with us.

            What is his name? Jesus … Yeshua … Joshua. His name is God saves.

            What is his name? Emmanuel. His name is God with us.

            Jesus is the fulfillment of prophesy. Jesus is the One who would come to save the people, to set the people free. Isaiah spoke of freedom from their captors. Matthew spoke of the captivity of sin.

            Jesus is the One. Born of the Holy Spirit of God. Sent by God. Son of God. IS God. Jesus is Emmanuel, God with us, God among us, God within us.

            As we listen again to the birth narrative, we hear those words and realize that the message to us is that God is not far off, distant, and disengaged. God is close, intimate and involved. Throughout the gospels, we encounter God in and through Jesus Christ. The story of Jesus is the story of God. No matter what we call him, Jesus points us toward God.

            The name Jesus … or Joshua … was a common name in the first century. We can find the name Joshua throughout scripture. But the name Emmanuel was not given to anyone else. There was only one “God with us.” And just as they sang in the ancient psalm, Jesus promised to be with his people until the end of the age. (Mt. 28.20)

            The two names together express the meaning of the story. God is present … intimate … up close rather than distant. God is active … sometimes in surprising and unexpected ways. And God’s actions are aimed at salvation … rescuing us, saving us, setting us free.

            This with the God that comes to us today. This is the Jesus that comes to us … is present to us … today offering us a new way forward in fulfillment of the promises of God.

            It does not matter to Jesus if your name is Harry, Larry, Gary or Barry.

            It does not matter to Jesus if your name is Cathy, Mary, Barbara or Sue.

            It does matter to Jesus if you are straight, cis, L, or G, or B, or T, or Q.

            Because Jesus, Yeshua, Joshua is God helps, God saves.

            Because Jesus is Emmanuel … God with us.

            God is with us whoever we are. God is with us wherever we are. God is with us in every moment. God is with us until the end of the age.

            There is no greater love, or more perfect love, in all the universe than that. Amen.


Congregational Church