Below is a copy of the sermon I preached on Sunday, December 18, in Cove Presbyterian Church, Weirton, West Virginia. You can find a podcast of this sermon on the Cove Podbean page. You might also want to visit the congregational website (covepresbyterian.org) for more church information.
If you find this sermon meaningful, please consider supporting this ministry by sending an offering to Cove Presbyterian Church, 3404 Main Street, Weirton, West Virginia or through PayPal.
Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.” When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.
Shakespeare Was Wrong
I've got something to read to you, and I'd like y'all to listen. And I'll try to be as dramatic as possible.
Deny thy father and refuse thy name;
Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love,
And I'll no longer be a Capulet.
[Aside] Shall I hear more,
or shall I speak at this?
'Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
It is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man.
O, be some other name!
What's in a name?
that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call'd,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title.
Romeo, doff thy name,
And for that name which is no part of thee
Take all myself.
But I believe we’d be making a big mistake if we just whiz past the appearance of the angel to Joseph, not Mary, as written by Matthew, because in these verses we have three names or titles connected to the one who’s coming that answers three pretty important Christmas-related questions, namely, who he is and why he came and what he continues to offer. And I’ll tell you, we can get answers to all three by looking at the names and titles he was given before his birth.
and who led the children of Israel from the wilderness to the banks of the Jordan River and who enabled them to conquer the promised land. You see, after the exodus, for God’s chosen people, he was the one who delivered them. For them, he was their savior. And that’s exactly what this one whom Joseph named Jesus was going to do. As the angel said, “he will save his people from their sins.” And you know, that’s exactly what he did. I mean, on the cross, when he died, we died with him. And through that death the power of sin died too. And when he was raised, not only do we have reason to hope as we look into the future, but we can experience a little bit of the resurrection life right now.
Now for as great as Shakespeare was, I think he missed the mark with that comment about how the name doesn’t affect the smell. You see, personally I believe names and titles really are important. And for me, no where is that clearer than in this passage from Matthew. You see, Mary’s son will be called the Christ, the ultimate king, the one who can lift us when we’re discouraged. That’s who he is. And he will be named Jesus, Joshua, the one who will save us in spite of our fears. That why he came. And he will be for us Emmanuel, God with us, the one who brings to us the divine presence 24/7. And that’s what he continues to offer. And I’ll tell you, all this is true even though Shakespeare may have been wrong about roses.