Wonder: Times of Tragedy and the Meaning of Names

I lay on the couch, eyes glued to the television, unable to move to the computer. How do I write an Advent post today? How do I wonder and marvel at the greatness of our God and His Story when I can’t turn off my shock and horror at the depravity of this world? Where do we go from here during this Christmas season?

Suddenly Advent wonder feels flat and thin and trite.

I watch as they countdown to the moment names of victims will be released. Names given thoughtfully by parents at their birth of their beloveds. Names bestowed to reflect a unique identity and future potential.

Names.

Names are special words that carry meaning and depth greater than the number of their syllables. They are representations of life and character and purpose.

And so I think about the names given to the baby we celebrate at this time of year.

You are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins. – Matthew 1:21

This baby’s name is Jesus, “Yahweh saves.”

It is easy to go through our days wearing blinders. We drop off our kids at school and head to our jobs blissfully unaware of the brokenness of the world. But then something tragic happens, and jolts us out of our idyllic stupor.

At times like this, how can there be any doubt that this world needs a savior? It was created with God’s perfect Shalom, but sin crashed through that peace and broke it. And so Yahweh came to save it.

“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). – Matthew 1:23

This baby’s name is Immanuel, “God with us.”

God’s salvation was not given from a distance. It was and is and always will be personal. He walks along side us through this life and gives us the gift of His presence. Immanuel holds our hands and carries us and whispers that He has suffered too and it is safe to cry with Him.

And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. – Isaiah 9:6

This baby’s name is “Wonderful Counselor.”

He is a God who not only listens, but a God who helps.  He guides us in how to put one foot in front of the other when we can’t seem to move or don’t know how to go on.

This baby’s name is “Mighty God.”

This actually feels like a difficult name right now, doesn’t it?  We questions why. If He is really so mighty, why, why, why does He not stop tragedies from happening?

Honestly, I don’t know the answer. The interplay between God’s sovereign power and humanity’s free will to do evil has been the stuff of theological debates for centuries.

But here is what brings me comfort: Mighty God is not the name given to a Supreme Being who sits ruling on His throne from a distance. It is the name given to our Savior, to Jesus, the One who came to save. This world may seem beyond repair, but our Mighty God says otherwise.

This baby’s name is “Everlasting Father.”

He is a King who cares for his people the way a father cares for his children. He reaches His arms out wide and invites us to collapse into them.  He will not leave. We can stay in His embrace as long as we need to be held.

This baby’s name is “Prince of Peace.”

He can and will restore shalom. He has brought shalom already by making a way for humanity to have peace with God. We can have his calming presence with us as we walk through times of turmoil.

And one day, this baby that was born and lived and died and rose again on this earth  thousands of years ago will come back to this earth again. He will restore shalom for good, making all things right and perfect and beautiful.

As we walk around the rest of this season, as we see the nativity scenes on display in homes and stores, we can remember the names of this baby lying still in the manger.

This baby’s name is Jesus. Immanuel. Wonderful Counselor. Mighty God. Everlasting Father. Prince of Peace.

 

Wonder: Rediscover the Christmas Story is an Advent series designed to help us pause and reflect on how amazing the stories of Jesus’ birth really are. To break through the cluttered busyness of the season and touch our hearts with the awe of what God has done. Let’s make this a season of wonder and worship, marveling together at our great God.