My wife and I are the proud, if not sometimes overwhelmed, parents of 6 young children. The youngest of which is just about 18 months old. In our young marriage (of just over 13 years now), the name discussion has been a very big part of our lives. I don’t know about any other couples out there, but this discussion generally lasts the entire length of the pregnancy in our house. Typically the conversation goes something like this:
“So, we like this name for a girl and this name for a boy, right?”
“Well, I’m not so sure I like that name anymore, how about this name?”
“That’s okay, but what about this name?”
“Oh, I like that one, but what about this one for a girl?”
“Yeah, I like that, but I still kinda like our first names, too.”
Generally, it goes a few more rounds before we both agree on two names only to have one of us come back a week later saying, “I don’t know if I am sold on those names anymore.”
Naming a child is a huge responsibility! It’s the one thing your child is going to live with their whole lives (assuming they don’t hate it and decide they need to change it as soon as they turn 18). And for our family, we like to be traditional and choose names of saints for both the first and middle names and that adds another dimension of difficulty to the mix.
Not long ago, however, I was given the opportunity to go on a retreat during which I had time to pray through the story of the angel appearing to Joseph in a dream (Mt. 1: 18-23). This brief account is filled with so much powerful fodder for reflection, but ultimately, what is stuck with me more than any other piece of that story is this line: “she will bear a son and you shall name him Jesus because he will save his people from their sins.”
First of all, how nice was it to be Joseph? He never had to deal with the 10-month-long conversation of what to name the child! He knew without a doubt at least three months in advance the name the Lord wanted for this child. But more seriously, think of just how important a role Joseph had in the history of salvation. Not only does he make it possible for Mary to bear the Son of God without outward ridicule and possibly being stoned to death, he incarnates the name of Jesus! He brings the most powerful name in all the world into the world! This was not a name before Joseph and because of Joseph, the name which is above every other name came into being and has been causing change in people from that day forward.
Just think about what happens in your heart or in your mind when you hear the name, Jesus. Say the name out loud yourself and you cannot help but me affected by its presence on your tongue and in your ears. Some people may hate the sound of it, others may feel at peace, some may feel fear or shame, some may feel absolute joy, but almost everybody responds to that name! And it was brought into the world by a humble carpenter who simply did what he was asked to do.
May we all have the courage to live our lives in complete obedience to the will of God and to continue to bring into our homes and our world the name of Jesus.