Having named our two boys a good few years ago, we again find ourselves in the arena of naming children, well rather we are observing our sons and their wives naming their children. I understand that as a grandparent I have no view, and even if I have I must keep it to myself. Much to my shame I suspect I am not as disciplined at this as I should be.
However, this is good advice for grandparents. In Fiji it is the grandparents who name the children not the parents, but it doesn’t count here.
I can still recall the views of an elderly lady in the Shetland Islands, where I was a minister, over the name we had chosen for our newly born wonderful baby, ‘Timothy’. She said ‘we prefer biblical names here’. We remained quiet in our own knowledge that the name ‘Timothy’ was a bible name and really felt a little indignant as one might as new parents.
Just in case you are wondering what our grandchildren are called, their names are ‘Elijah’, ‘Isaac’ and ‘Sophie’, all great names.
The website Parents.com has much to say about naming children: “Choosing your child’s name is a big decision–after all, they’ll be walking around with it for the rest of their lives!” According to Laura Wattenberg, author of The Baby Name Wizard, when a child is born, the name reflects more on you than the child. “The name doesn’t belong to you–you’re making the decision because your child can’t do it for themselves–but what you choose does say a lot about your personality.”
This observation I think is very insightful. The story of the birth of Jesus from Matthew’s Gospel tells us about Joseph being betrothed to Mary. Being betrothed was like a really strong engagement which was very hard to break. Joseph finds Mary is pregnant and he is told in a dream by God that the Holy Spirit is the father and that Joseph should still marry her. Then before the days of scans, Joseph is told that Mary will give birth to a son and that he has to name him Jesus. It was a name foretelling what God was intending to do through this tiny baby. A new birth with such potential, not just for himself, but the whole population for ever.
Matthew makes it clear: ‘you will name him Jesus – because he will save his people from their sins’. The idea behind this is that ‘sin’ or wrong is bad for the health of our souls, the people we are at the depth of our being and God loves us and wants to make us better. More than this, not only does he want to make a difference, but he has done something to enable it.
The English Poet Christina Rossetti’s poem/carol ‘In the Bleak Mid-Winter’ explains:
‘Our God, heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain,
Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign:
In the bleak mid-winter a stable-place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty —Jesus Christ.
She suggests a suitable response:
‘What can I give Him, poor as I am? —
If I were a Shepherd I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man I would do my part, —
Yet what I can I give Him, — Give my heart.’
In the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus we have the medicine for our souls when by faith we give ourselves to Jesus because he will save his people from their sins.