How are children named in Africa? We have a very rich and diverse culture of naming children in our nation.
In some language groups in our country, names given to children have profound meanings. The name may be a phrase or word of praise and gratitude to God (“Deladem” meaning “God has delivered me”, “Enyo” meaning “God is good”, “Nyamekye” meaning “God’s gift”).
Or the name may be expressions that reflect life’s spectrum of experiences. (“Fayose” meaning “cry deeply with all earnestness and call upon your creator God”. “Egblegede” meaning “he will leave it all behind, he will not take any property or wealth with him when he comes to close his lips in death”.)
Or a name may reflect a vision or purposeful desire to see justice and the end to oppression of the poor; and end to greed and self-serving public office. (“Zanetor” meaning “may the deeds of darkness and corrupt practices stop”).
In some of our local cultures, there are specific names to be given to the first, second, third born son or daughter and so on. Then there are special clan names that reveal the child’s clan and are immediately identified as such when his name is called.
How is the baby Jesus to be named? The directive of the Angel of the Lord to Joseph: “she (Mary) will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 2: 21 ESV).
This is meaningful in our cultural context. Why the name Jesus? The name of the child, “Jesus” declares the purpose of His life: “He will save His people from their sins”.
Indeed “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16 ESV). Jesus lives out His name as saviour. The following are just a few Bible texts which confirm that:
- “God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ”. (2 Corinthians 5:21 NLT)
- “He was handed over to die because of our sins, and he was raised to life to make us right with God”. (Romans 4:25 NLT).
- “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead”. (1 Peter 1:3 ESV).
- “He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right”. (1 Peter 2:24 NLT).
- “The grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works”. (Titus 2:11-14 ES)
In the birth of Jesus, the story of God’s plan of salvation for all people in the Bible right from Genesis, moves to a climax. Indeed, Charles Wesley sings, “No other help is found,
No other name is given by which we can have salvation”.
But Jesus came to the world to save (NHB 114).
Secondly, the Bible text says that the declaration of the Angel and what is about to happen, fulfils what God had said to the Prophet Isaiah about the birth of Jesus: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). (Matthew 1:23 ESV).
Thirdly, the above Bible text says, “they shall call His name Immanuel-which means “God with us”. Jesus is our “Immanuel”. It is amazing as a believer to always and at all times experience the awesome Divine Presence of Jesus.
- a) This Jesus, our Immanuel, will be with us to save us by being the sacrifice for sin on the cross.
- b) This Jesus Himself promises us: “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20 NLT)
- c) This Jesus in life’s journey of sunshine days and cloudy days will be with us, and He is our good shepherd; “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me”. (Psalms 23:4 ESV)
- d) This Jesus will be with us throughout the eternity:
“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am”. (John 14:1-3 NLT)
“They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore, they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Revelation 7:14b-17b ESV)
Who is Jesus to you? Your Saviour and Lord? Do you experience Him as “Immanuel-God with us”?
Jesus our saviour will give us new life and save us to the uttermost. Jesus our Immanuel, the Good Shepherd, will never leave us nor forsake us. He lives out His name as saviour. He lives out His name as “Immanuel-God with us”!!
(The author is a consultant in authentic Christian Spirituality and Discipleship and former CEO of Scripture Union)