Sunday, December 25, 2022

The Name of Our Salvation

 Isaiah 9:6

For a Child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.

Sermon for Christmas            12/25/22

The Name of Our Salvation

My Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

What s in a name?  Shakespeare asked that question once.  Many times today, an individual's name is just an accident of circumstance.  That is not th
e case in Scriptures most of the time.  Names were given to say something, to express a hope or confess something.  This is true particularly in the names of God or of His Messiah.  Those names reveal something about God, about the Messiah.  Whenever God gives a name, it is intended to communicate some aspect of the truth about the one named.  Think of "Adam".  It means "man" and it means "dirt" - from which he was formed.  Or Israel - He who wrestles with God.  Or Abraham, the Father of a Multitude.  Or Peter, the Rock.  That is why the names God has given to His Son are so important, because they tell us about Him.  Our text is a list of names which form one name for the One who was coming.  In these name are the entire story of the gospel.  Let us consider, then, The Name of Our Salvation.

We know the details of the Christmas story.  We have heard them read time and time again over the years - including this year.  I don t need to repeat them in detail this morning in the sermon.  We all know what day this is.  It isn't just your run-of-the-mill Sunday morning - although it really is, since every Sunday is the celebration of Christmas and Easter and of all of truths of the Gospel.   Our focus today is to celebrate one of the most sublime mysteries of our faith, that God became one of us.  The Creator and Ruler of all that is, was born a helpless infant that night in Bethlehem, so long ago.  He endured it all for our salvation.  Unto you is born, this day, in the city of David, the angel said to those shepherds who stood in our place to hear that glorious news for the first time, a Savior which is Christ the Lord.

There are a number of ways to tell the story of our salvation.  One of the ways God told it was in the names He used, and the names He said His Messiah would be called, as He spoke through His Prophets of old.  The names of Our Lord tell us about the gift of God and about our salvation.  Even the name Jesus means "Savior" or, literally "Jahweh Saves" — for He shall save His people from their sins.  The name "Christ", really a title and not a proper name, means "the Anointed One."  The title means that this one was chosen to be the One, the King, the One selected for the special mission – the Messiah of the Old Testament prophecies who would come to rescue and save.

But these ancient names of Jesus, announced here by the prophet Isaiah, tell us what Jesus would be all about.  They speak of His nature and His will and His work.  For example, His name will be called Wonderful Counselor.  The King James Version divided these two words into separate names.  It makes no difference.  He is wonderful.  What He came to do is wonderful.  As the Psalmist says, This is the Lord's doing; It is marvelous in our eyes!  Jesus quotes this verse of Psalm 118 Himself, declaring that it describes Him and His ministry.

But it is not really important for our purposes this morning whether we connect or disconnect these two words.  Jesus is Wonderful, and He is Counselor, and He is a Wonderful Counselor.  The Old Testament office of Counselor was the office of a wise and insightful man.  It wasn't his job to listen and allow you to work through your problems on your own, as so many non-directive counselors do today.  He was to direct and give guidance with great wisdom.  He might have special gifts of knowledge, but He was always able to give wise and Godly advice.  He always knew what we should do.

Jesus is our Counselor.  He shows us the way to go and leads us in that everlasting way, spoke of in Psalm 139.  Everything He has done, and all that He has commanded is both good and godly, and it works to accomplish our salvation.  Who would have ever conceived of God becoming one of us to purchase us back from our own sin, and to pay on our behalf the penalty of our own evil?  Most pious, religious thinkers have declared what God has done impossible, but there it was, in a manger – in Bethlehem – those long years ago.  What sublime wisdom.

His name shall be called  .  .  .  Mighty God.  That baby in the manger is no average child.  He is the God of all creation – who rules the world and all it contains by His almighty power.  What a marvelous thought!  The One who caused the tremendous reactions in the stars, causing them to shine so brightly through such long ages is the One whose birth as a helpless infant we celebrate this morning.  He who makes the chemical reactions happen which give life and health to your bodies every moment was Himself helpless, and needed to be fed and changed and loved, just as each of us needed when we were babies.  "And behold, you will conceive in your womb, and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus.  He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High."

His name shall be called  .  .  .  Eternal Father.  God added this name to the list to keep anyone from being confused.  The God which the Old Testament peoples knew as God – Jehovah, Yahweh Sabaoth, that is, the Lord of Mighty Armies – is the God who has become flesh among us.  It was that specific assertion which got Jesus into so much trouble in His ministry.  He would use the divine name, "I Am," and the people would come unhinged.  Jesus would say, "Before Abraham was, I Am," and the crowd would cry "Blasphemy!" and try to stone Him.  He would call Himself the Son of God or the promised One and they would rush at Him to push Him off a cliff.

They should have known.  This prophecy told them that when the Messiah came, He would be very God of very God.  The prophecy told them that when their Savior came, He would be the One whom they had known as the Lord throughout their history.  But they did not remember, they did not pay attention, and they did not believe.

The Apostle Paul did.  He reminds us in 1 Corinthians; and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea: and all ate the same spiritual food; and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ.  The God who followed them – and led them through the Exodus was the One found in the manger that night, because there was no room in the inn.

His name shall be called  .  .  .  the Prince of Peace.  And Scripture says that He is our peace.  He established peace with God by answering the guilt of our sins.  

He answered our guilt on the cross.  That tortured death is what we deserve by our sinning.   He bore the wrath of God in our place because we could not do so and live, and because of His great love for us.  We can never approach the manger of Bethlehem without remembering that it was but a step on the road to the cross on Golgotha.

Jesus Christ placed Himself in our harm's way so that He could rescue us from all that our sins have deserved.  Because of Him the will of God toward us is good and blessing and salvation.  Through His work we have peace with God instead of anger and terror and judgment.  Now we can call on God and He will hear us and bless us.  Now we can contemplate our God with joy and contentment and peace, and all because of the One who was worshiped by shepherds and serenaded by angels.

We have peace with God, and with one another.  What can we do but forgive one another, now that so great a debt of sin has been forgiven us?  Of course, some choose another path, but by doing so, they choose to turn their back of the Prince of Peace. Jesus erased the distinction between Jews and Gentiles, between one race and another.  He died for all.  All are welcome to His Father.  He intercedes for us all.  God is no respecter of persons.  There is no partiality with God.  If we are His children, we cannot afford to permit ourselves to cling to that partiality which God Himself has done away with.

Whatever the name we may use to speak of Jesus, it is the name of salvation.  "Jesus" speaks of salvation.  The wonders we sing about this morning are but the beginning of the miracles and wonders which God worked for us and for our salvation.  

We can also sing of the precious gift of the Sacrament, which we will receive again this morning.  What a Christmas present!  It is the very body which Christ offered up for us on the cross and the very precious blood which He shed for our sins.  He presents it to us as we partake of the Sacrament of the Altar, in and with and under the form of the bread and wine.  He gives us each and every time what most men continue to say is impossible, His true body and blood.  By eating and drinking the holy meal He provides, we are forgiven, and we are strengthened, and we are filled once again with His presence and His blessings of forgiveness and peace, life and salvation — for where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation!

Let us therefore celebrate Christmas.  Open the gift and discover the Christ Child, His mission complete and your salvation accomplished.  Our theme on this Christmas Sunday Morning is "His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace."  His name is the Name of Our Salvation –  for as Peter preached so long ago, "There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved."

A merry and blessed Christmas to you all!

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
(Let the people say Amen)

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