The following is Deacon Dan’s homily for the 4th Sunday of Advent – December 19, 2010.
Have you ever wondered how and why your parents chose your name? Were you, perhaps, named for a favorite relative or a famous person? Does your name have any special meaning? Was yours a popular baby name the year you were born? It might be interesting to ask your parents how and why they chose your particular name for you.
I did a little research on my name, “Daniel.” I discovered that it is Hebrew in origin and means, “God is my judge.” It wasn’t a very popular name when I was born but has since grown in popularity (I claim no responsibility for its increase in popularity). As far as I know, there isn’t a great story behind the choice of my name by my parents. My guess is that they like the name and it seemed to “fit” me.
In today’s readings God reveals to us three of his names. We’ve heard them before, but we need to think about them again in this last week of Advent. In today’s readings, we hear the names Jesus, Emmanuel, and Lord. Two of these are names that God gives us to refer to his Son. One is a name we give to his Son in response for all that he is and all he has done for us.
I’m certain your parents took a lot of care in naming you. They wanted your name to mean something, to signify how important your life is to them. God the Father was also careful about naming his child. He didn’t leave it up to chance or to Mary and Joseph’s creativity (He didn’t want “Moon Unit” or “Apple” for his Son’s name). God chose Jesus’ name himself and sent an angel to announce the choice to Mary and Joseph.
In the Old Testament, God often changed people’s names – mostly when someone was given a special mission – like Abram (who became Abraham) and Jacob (who became Israel). The meaning of their new names signified their role in God’s plan. When God instructs Joseph to call Mary’s son “Jesus” (even before he was born) God shows that Jesus is not just another prophet. He shows that Jesus is his Son in an entirely unique way.
And what does that name mean? In Hebrew, Jesus means “God saves.” This names reveals Christ’s mission. Unlike the Old Testament prophets, Jesus didn’t come to earth only to announce God’s plan for saving us from sin and evil; he came to be that plan – to win salvation for us!
But another name is also revealed to us today: Emmanuel. In our first reading, we hear the prophet Isaiah announce the name Emmanuel. In our Gospel reading, we hear St. Matthew apply that name to Jesus “Emmanuel” in Hebrew means, “God is with us.”
Think about these two names that God has given us:
- The name “Jesus” (God saves) refers to Christ’s mission, what he came to do (to save us from sin)
- The name “Emmanuel” (God with us) refers to his identity, to who he is
Biblical scholars and theologians will tell us that the names Jesus and Emmanuel are closely related. The only way Jesus is capable of saving us is because he is both true man and true God. We were exiled from heaven and God’s friendship because of Original Sin – the sin of Adam and Eve. And we couldn’t get back to God’s friendship on our own – it was out of our reach. To reestablish friendship with God, we needed God himself to take the initiative. We needed a Savior who could bring God and his human family back together.
Jesus is that Savior.
God is his father, so he is fully divine. Mary is his mother, so he is fully human. God becoming man to save a fallen human race is the greatest story ever told. This is the real meaning of Christmas.
And yet, there is still another name the Church presents us with today. In the second reading, St. Paul refers to Jesus as “Our Lord.” “Jesus” and “Emmanuel” are names that only God could have given. But “Lord” is a name that only we can give.
- God initiates a plan to save us by sending his only Son to die for our sins
- We respond by accepting Jesus as “Lord” (in Hebrew, “Adonai”)
- St. Paul acknowledges Jesus as the ultimate source of all order, power, and greatness
In Mass today, we will acknowledge the exact same thing when we pray:
“Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed.”
Think about those words and you prepare to receive Christ in Holy Communion. Think about Christ – who he is, what his mission is, and how you respond to him in your life.
And in the few days remaining before Christmas, let’s keep all three names on our lips and in our hearts:
- Jesus – our Savior
- Emmanuel – God with us
- Lord – our ultimate source, our “higher power”
I invite you to reflect on these names this week. The more we understand them, the closer we can grow in relationship with God.
Have a merry, and blessed Christmas!
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