In some Advent traditions, the fourth Sunday of Advent focuses on love. In others, it centers on salvation. The two themes are not incompatible. It is because of God’s love that our salvation is possible. It is because we have experienced salvation that we can know what it is to receive and to give love in its deepest sense.

The name “Jesus” is an Anglicized form of the New Testament’s Greek version of the new baby’s Aramaic name, “Yeshua.” It is from the same Hebrew name that we usually pronounce “Joshua.”

And it means “Yahweh saves.”

Since “Yahweh” is an Old Testament name for God more commonly translated as “LORD,” we could also translate Jesus’ name as meaning “The Lord is Salvation.” That is why Matthew adds the interpretive phrase: “you shall call his name Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21).

When Jesus grew up and began his active ministry, he seems to have adopted Isaiah 61:1-3 as his personal mission statement. That text is all about salvation, about bringing deliverance to people in need.

Being saved or delivered means that we move from one place to another, from a threatening place to a better one.

In Jesus, we are saved from despair in our present circumstances to hope in God’s good future.

In Jesus, we are saved from the domination of sin to the freedom of heart and life that comes through forgiveness.

In Jesus, we are saved from the darkness of death and brought to the light of eternal life.

Such a glorious, incomprehensible gift!

And all wrapped up in swaddling clothes.

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