"But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord." Luke 1:13-15
"You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” Luke 1:31-33
In our pluralistic and politically correct culture, you will often hear this phrase tossed out by well-meaning people under the pretense of open-mindedness, "We all worship the same God, it doesn't matter whether we call Him "God" or "Allah" or "Buddha" or whatever."
Uh, sorry! It matters! It matters a lot!
First, there is the little matter of the First Commandment - actually, the first four, were very clear and specific that there is only One God and it is "Jehovah" the God of the Hebrews. The Old Testament lists a series of names that describe character of "Jehovah", but it only enhances and strengthens the uniqueness of our God.
While this is a less weighty argument, it is nevertheless significant that Gabriel, the archangel who stands in the presence of Jehovah God, was very specific about what Zachariah and Mary were to name their sons. The same God Who was blessing them with miracle babies also had a definite idea of what He wanted them to be named!
In the ancient Hebrew culture a name had great importance. Names were given according to some unique feature of a child's physical nature or regarding their character. A name had an almost prophetic quality. Parents named their child in a way that would inspire and help shape his future character and values. Unlike today when a name is often chose from a favorite celebrity, Hebrews were very intentional about the name they gave their child understanding it had eternal implications.
No wonder Gabriel stressed to Zachariah that this miracle son that God was going to give them MUST be named "John"! Why?
Because God said so! But also because "John" means "God is gracious". Who better to preach repentance in preparation for the coming of the Messiah than a son named "John - God is gracious"? After all, the Scriptures tell us that it is the "kindness of God that leads us to repentance" (Romans 2:4). Repentance would be futile had without God's gracious plan to send His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. So, who better to declare the message of turning from sin and clinging to grace than one named "John - God is gracious"?
Now, be sure, if you miss the grace of God and if you become confused by this politically correct myth about all gods being equal, then you will only know the wrath and justice of God.
Gabriel also was clear to Mary that her miracle child would be a son and she was to name Him "Jesus".
The name "Jesus" comes from the Hebrew name "Yeshua" which is used 27 times in the Old Testament and has a rich and extensive documentation. It means "God saves" or "salvation". Since Jesus was the Son of God ("Yeshua" came from "Jehovah") should we not worship that God? And does that not clearly separate that God (our God) above all other gods? Names matter!
The good news of Christmas is about a "gracious God" Who sent His Son to bring "salvation"! That message was made clear when God sent "John" to prepare the way for "Jesus"!
What's in a name? Eternal salvation and personal access to fellowship with the God of the Universe, that's all.