What's In A Name (Merry Christmas Part 2)

by Jonathan Whitaker

One of the features of the small towns throughout America is Main Street.  Without fail, Main Street in any town, in any state is the home of city hall and a collection of traditional Christian churches.  Sure in Santa Maria you have Broadway, but the concept is the same.  The center of small town culture is that main store-lined thoroughfare that heads straight through town.   
 
We in the season of advent, the time of expectation when we symbolically wait upon the arrival of the Lord.  Main Street will be trimmed and decorated. It will play host to parades and pageants, and each Church along its route will set up a nativity scene.  As you are out admiring the bunting of the Christmas holiday, take time to consider the name of each of the churches that line Main Street.  In any town you will have churches named Calvary, New Covenant, Bethel, or Salem.  For the most part we are satisfied that these names sound sufficiently churchy and never give them another thought.  But, a lot can be communicated by a church's name.
 
Somebody deliberately named a church Calvary.  Calvary was both a place of sadness and great triumph for Jesus and for us as His Church.  But Calvary (also Golgotha) is translated as, "the place of the skull". (Luke 23:33) What an ugly and awful name.  Why on earth would you want to be associated with a hill where executions were committed? Because on a very sad Friday, Jesus our Lord, willingly took the full wrath of God the Father in our place (1 John 4:10).  In that light, the "place of the skull" takes on a different meaning, and Calvary becomes a name we should solemnly remember.
 
Consider why a congregation would name their church Bethel.  Bethel is nothing more than a heap of stones in the desert where the Hebrew patriarch Jacob slept one night.  That seems kind of random.  But, Bethel means "God's Camp".  Bethel was the place where God began to draw Jacob's heart toward his future as the father of the nation of Israel. (Gen 28:10-22) A church that would be named Bethel, signifies that they believe that their congregation actually belongs to God and His will is greater than theirs.  Bethel is a place where we humble ourselves and pray to God, "Your will be done."
 
Salem means "peace".  In Genesis, Abraham was greeted by the Priest and King of Salem (Gen 14:17-24).  A church named Salem, reminds us at Christmas that unto us was born Jesus, the Prince of Peace, and that we are a people of peace (Isaiah 9:6).
 
When a church calls itself New Covenant, we should think of Hebrews 8:8-12.  The Lord says he will establish a new covenant with His Church, when He will write His laws on our hearts, we will be His people who will know Him, and He will remember our sins no more.  What an opportunity we have to remember God's goodness just by driving down Main Street! 
 
Each one of you who profess Christ as your Lord and Savior is just like those old Main Street churches.  Your lives are on display for everyone to see as they go about their busy days.  Like those churches you have a name written upon you by which you are known to all who pass by.  Is the name written on you a name by which you want to be known?  This Christmas season, consider writing the name "Love" over your life.  1 John 4:7-21 tells us that by our love we will be known as the servants of God.  Who ever loves has been born of God and knows God. 
 
As Christ's Church, love should be our banner.  Advent season provides us a perfect opportunity as we wait upon the Lord, to consider our identity as His Church.  Are we harboring hatred in our hearts? Do we love ourselves above others? Do we love others above Him? 1 John 4 asks how we can hate a man whom we have seen, but love a God whom we haven't seen.  No, we have been given too much by our Lord to continue harboring hate in our hearts.  We have only one option: love.
 
I hope as you walk down Broadway or Main Street this Christmas season that God will give you opportunities to show that the name written over His Church may read “Element,” but it is translated "Love".