In the famous story of Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare raised the now famous question, “What is in a name?” And in the next sentence he gave his equally famous answer, “That which we call a rose, by any other name, would smell as sweet.”
In his poetic language, Shakespeare was saying that names, in and of themselves, have no meaning. And in our western culture that is largely true. Names are simply labels that are applied to people for purposes of identification. They are sometimes chosen by association as when a child is named after some relative or friend. At other times, they are chosen for aesthetic appeal as when a child’s parents happen to like the sound of a particular name.
But with ancient Hebrews, names had more meaning than they do for us. They often expressed a hope or a prophesy of what that child would become. We know, for example, that the angel of the Lord not only informed Joseph that Mary was going to have a son, he also told him what to name the child, “You are to name Him Jesus because He will save His people from their sins.”
The name “Jesus” is the Greek rendering of the Hebrew name “Joshua”. It means “the Lord is salvation.” So, while we contemplate this weekend the many beautiful aspects of Christmas, we cannot leave out the brutal fact of human sinfulness. The primary reason that Jesus came into the world was to deal with that problem. His mission in life was to “save His people from their sins.” That, of course, means you and me.
When the angel made that announcement, he was talking about a very real need inside us all. One of the most obvious truths about our human race is that something is drastically wrong with us. We seem to be utterly incapable of living together in a spirit of peace and cooperation. In the last one hundred years or so the discoveries of science have been almost unbelievable. But then look at what we have done with all of this newfound knowledge.
We have taken virtually every invention that science has given us and corrupted it for some evil purpose. It does not require a genius or a prophet to see that something is very wrong. The Bible calls that something – sin. It is a perverseness in our very nature that takes the best and makes the worst out of it. When the angel told Joseph that Mary’s Son would save us from that, he was talking about a very real need in all of us.
Although Jesus can and does fortify people to cope with adversity, in no way does he offer escape from the very real problems of life. He is no magic savior. He is instead our moral redeemer. Salvation is primarily something that happens inside a person. Christ wants to come to each of us with an offer of forgiveness and friendship that will transform our character and enable us to live as He lived.
This Christmas 2019 please make room in your hearts for Jesus so that He can be your personal Lord and Savior and save you from your sins. Make sure that Jesus is not for you a stranger. We are really His. We belong to Him, and He wants to belong to us.
We are asking all of our parishioners to share the excitement of our Catholic faith with others during this most Holy Season. We ought to extend an invitation to family members, friends, godparents, and neighbors to return to the Lord, to Church and to the sacraments this Christmas Season by coming to confession and/or by joining you at Mass every Sunday.