In the Old Testament the Hebrew culture placed a great emphasis on names. Character qualities were associated with different names; parents would give a child a name they hoped would prove prophetic—a quality that child would embody. In the same way, many Christian parents today choose the names of their children with the hope that these names will encourage those children to develop certain godly qualities. Josiah, for example, means "God supports," and David means "beloved one."
If you look through the Bible, you will find many different names used for Jesus Christ. My family has found that focusing on the names of Christ during the Christmas season can provide many opportunities for you and your children to learn there is so much more than just the sweet Christmas ceremony to celebrate.
Nothing is more precious than seeing how we honor His name. As you learn the meaning behind the names of Christ, you learn more about Him and the difference He makes in our lives. Here are four examples:
1. The Good Shepherd
"I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep." —John 10:11 (New American Standard Bible)
God put His shepherd here on this earth to be our shepherd. You see Him in John 10 as the shepherd who is in charge of the sheepfold, and the sheep follow Him, and they have eternal life. Scripture says that God knows His sheep, which is exciting to me.
A shepherd's staff functions as both a prod to get sheep to move and a crook to pull them in line and protect them. Sheep are among the dumbest of all animals, and they will literally eat their way, not looking, and go right off the side of a mountain. They can be caught in a briar patch because of their wool. Their shepherd will go down and put that crook around their neck, and he'll lift them up and rescue them. In this same way you can celebrate at Christmas that Jesus always care for you, and He can always rescue you.
2. The True Vine
"I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing." —John 15:5 (NASB)
It is essential for a branch to remain connected to the vine; if you break off the branch it will wither and die. But if it stays connected, it will bear fruit. In the same way, Christ's life flows through us (the branches) and then manifests itself. I believe that if you are a true child of God there is going to be evidence of your salvation, evidence of the fact that you are connected to Jesus Christ. And that evidence is fruit.
An example of why it is important to stay connected to the vine is found in Judas. He did not abide in Jesus; his life never showed the fruit that would have been evidence that he was connected to the vine. The rest of the disciples remained connected, and their lives manifested the fruit of the Spirit.
3. The Light of the World
Again therefore Jesus spoke to them, saying, "I am the light of the world; he who follows Me shall not walk in the darkness, but shall have the light of life." —John 8:12 (King James Version)
John came to tell people that Jesus is the true light, and it is He who lights every man who comes to know Him. In Matthew 5:14-16 the believer is admonished not to hide his light under a bushel but instead to let people see his light so that the Father in heaven would be glorified.
You could teach your children about this by buying the kind of candle that relights itself. Light the candle, hold it up, and then blow it out. Tell your children that you've "succeeded in putting out the light"… and then let them watch as the candle sparks back up. You can use this to teach the principle that he who has the Son has life, that the life is the light of the world, and that we're going to live forever.
4. The Bright Morning Star
"I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things for the churches. I am … the bright morning star." —Revelation 22:16 (NASB)
Here Jesus is depicted as another kind of light. In this verse I catch a glimpse of eternity as I think about Him coming again and shining forever. I think that we don't realize that every human being is eternal. Everybody is going to live somewhere forever, either with the Bright Morning Star or in the lake of fire that is eternal darkness.
I think sometimes in the midst of the Christmas season, we can forget that we are dealing with eternal issues. It is the holiday season that puts us back in touch with family members who are not saved, helps us see where we need to realign our lives and reconnect to Jesus in a deeper way, and reminds us that the giving we express so fully now could be more than just an annual event.
Focusing on the names of Christ is a great way to present the gospel in an nonthreatening and non-offensive way and still present the truth about who Christ is. It also can serve as a prod to those who want to walk more closely with Him but for whatever reason aren't doing so.
Copyright © 2004 by Kay Arthur. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
Looking for help or inspiration this Christmas? FamilyLife offers several resources to help your family focus on Christ during your Christmas celebration. The Ever Thine Home® Christmas collection includes ornaments and other decorations help you honor Christ and proclaim your faith. The 12 Names of Christmas™ ornaments are designed to help you teach your children about Jesus is and why He came to live among us. And in When Christmas Came, Barbara Rainey reveals the substance of Christmas in poignant prose and vivid watercolors.