What’s Behind a Name

Dylan and Big Brother Waylan

Dec. 2, 2011

Isaiah 9:6-7

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.

On Nov. 22, we had a grandson born: Dylan Richard Vielhuber. He’s pictured here with his big brother, Waylan.

A regular question an expecting couple receives before the baby’s birth is, “What name have you have picked out?” With the help of ultrasound, many parents know the sex of their child and know exactly what they will name the baby before he/she is born. It’s not uncommon for the baby to be called this name by family and friends before the baby arrives.

This summer, I asked our daughter-in-law Courtney if she and Rick’s son, Darran, had picked out a name for the their newest baby. They knew it was going to be a boy. Courtney shared with me that Darran wanted to name him Darran, Jr. She was not for this at all. She offered up Dylan, knowing that Darran wanted a name that ended in “an,” as does Waylan and Darran. Often a baby’s middle name will have significiance and be used because of another family member with that name. Rick now has two grandsons that carry his proper name as their middle name. Darran’s middle name is also Richard.

When the Son of God was going to be born, the name was not left up to chance. Both Joseph and Mary were instructed by the angel as to what to name the baby. The angel told Joseph to name the baby, “Immanuel,” which means “God with us.” Gabriel was clear with Mary that the baby would be called Jesus.

We use a variety of names for Jesus, including Immanuel. In this passage from Isaiah, we’re given several names which the Son of God will be called:

Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Some people may think, “How can one person have so many names? Are all of these references really to the Son of God?”

I believe they are. When you are God and the Son of God, it’s impossible for one name to adequately account for who you are. The variety of names illustrates for us the width, breath and depth of Jesus. It’s OK for folks to hang onto one of these names because that name speaks to you. And don’t be surprised when one name has more meaning for you at some particular period of time.

Think about how we call each other. Rick’s Great Aunt Edith always called him “Ricky,” even while he was in his 50’s. I can hear her say, “How is my little Ricky?” I can tell when someone knew Rick when he was in high school because they will call him “Rich.” (Privately, he says this is his preferred name.) All of his names are a shortened version of his proper name, Richard. Same person, different names, based on various times of a person’s life.

I googled “names for Jesus” to see how many different names there might be. One website listed over 200! Wikipedia distinquished between “names” and “titles.” It said there are two names for Jesus: Jesus and Emmanuel, based on the names share with Joseph and Mary. It listed these as titles: Christ, Lord, Logos (the Word), Son of God, Son of Man, Lamb of God, Second Adam, Light of the World, King of the Jews, Rabbi. Each of these names is a reference or description for Jesus’ role in the world. In this passage from Isaiah, the prophet speaks of Jesus’ role within the government. Certainly, this is indicative of the words chosen to describe Jesus here: Counselor, Peace and Mighty.

Jesus doesn’t get too hung up on what name we use to describe him. Or at lesat that’s what I think. What’s more important to Jesus is whether or not we have a personal relationship with Jesus. The more intimate we feel with a person, the more likely we are to have a special or pet name for that person. Jesus should be no different.

As I write this, I realize that I have a private name for Rick that has meaning and significance between the two of us. Do I have that private name for Jesus? No. Why not? Some people would argue that it is important to keep reverence with how we address God or Jesus. Personally, I think it’s more important to use a term that is meaningful and personal for us. That’s why we carefully pick names for children. That’s why Dylan as a “an” at the end of his name.

During Advent, we’re preparing for the coming of the Christ child. This baby was given very specific names to help us understand his work and ministry while on earth. What is the meaning behind your name? Were you named after someone? Today, make a list of those names or titles for Jesus that you are aware of. Is there one on the list that is particularly more meaningful for you? Why? Is there one that is more challenging for you? What’s the history behind this? Throughout the day, I encourage you to use the name that is most meaningful for you and say it aloud often, as if you were calling out for that person. Just as we love to hear our name spoken, Jesus loves to hear any of his names or titles spoken aloud. May calling out this name bring you a hare bit closer to Jesus this day, this Advent.

Blessings –

Dianne

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