Jesus is known by many names—but all of them mean love.
Credit: Vidar Nordli-Mathisen on Unsplash
Jesus, the Light of the WorldSusan: We paused in awe as we entered La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain. The colours were incredible. How did the builders achieve such brilliance? Then we realized that it was the sunlight streaming through the stained glass that created the amazing colour. We speak of Jesus as the Light of the world. This is what I imagine Jesus does: His light reveals the spectrum of wonder and brilliance in people. Jesus’ light reveals the depth of possibility and promise within each of us. Light is an essential image for the celebration of Christmas, but it is light that reveals not just Jesus but also the blessing in each of us, and offers healing to our brokenness and pain. David: It was pure intent on the part of Antoni Gaudí (1852‒1926) the architect of La Sagrada Familia, to play with light so that at different times of the year and during different seasons the light would manifest itself in a beautiful range of colour, especially in winter when the light is low in the sky. How clever! And how thoughtful that the Holy Family basilica would be full of wondrous light at the time of winter solstice and the season of Christmas. To stand in this holy space and be immersed in light was illuminating and, in a living way, pointed to the Christ as warm and loving light for all who enter this glorious space.
Jesus, the WaySusan: I’m fascinated by paths in the woods or cow paths along a fence. Just like life, these paths don’t have a clear destination, leaving much to the imagination about where they are going. They are not level or straight. Perhaps that is why I like the image of Jesus as the Way. Like the first followers of Jesus, I gravitate to calling myself a follower of the Way rather than Christian because I think that was Jesus’ intent. He modelled and taught a radical, challenging Way: Love your enemies. Welcome the stranger. Embrace the outcast. Do not judge. He committed to walking the Way with us. Jesus is God-with-Us on the path of life, just what I need! David: I grew up following cow paths through the fields. They always led somewhere: to green pastures, a grove of shade trees, or the shelter of the barn. They were fun to follow—I never really knew where I might end up. Following a path is comforting. Yet, when I can’t find the path, it is disturbing and frightening. Once I lost the path in a thick blanket of fog while hiking in the mountains. Without a path to guide me, I was lost. To follow Jesus is to follow a path that provides direction. To follow the path that Jesus walks is to walk in the way of wisdom, compassion, and love. We may not know exactly where it leads, but with Jesus we find rest, shade, shelter, and home. Such is the Way of Jesus.
Jesus, the Morning StarDavid: I’ve always been a lover of the morning sky—that time between sleep and waking. It’s even more significant during the winter when the nights are long and cold. For that reason, the morning light is welcome and full of promise for me. The morning star can still be seen in the west as the day star—our sun—rises in the east. I have the feeling that the light is always with me and never leaves me. It’s comforting, and it’s beautiful. The prophet Isaiah says, “Do not fear, I am with you” (Isaiah 41:10). When I see the morning star, I am reminded of this promise. It shines with hope and offers comfort after the longest of nights. Susan: I remember when my sons were just babies how hard it was to be up with them in the early morning hours. My body ached for sleep; my mind was clouded with frustration. I would stand at the back door, holding my child and looking out to the east. I watched for the dawn and the bright morning star (probably a planet). Somehow that star was my anchor. It helped me know I would make it through the nights of disrupted sleep. In the same way, Jesus is for me my morning star. In times of frustration and disillusionment, the times of exhaustion and grief, the times of wondering if what I am doing is worth it, I look to Jesus and find my anchor in the morning light.
Jesus, EmmanuelDavid: I have always found deep meaning and comfort in the mystery of Emmanuel—God with us. The simple and graceful lines of the artist in this nativity by Amos Pewter capture expressions of love, wonder, and adoration. Joseph’s outstretched hand gesturing to the child says, “I see it but I don’t quite believe it, but look at this beautiful child!” It is hard to believe—that God comes to us to be close to us, to be embodied in human form in such a gracious and vulnerable way. Mary’s hands cover her heart and convey gratitude and blessing. Indeed, how deep is the mystery! God is with us. Susan: “They shall name him Emmanuel—God with us” (Matthew 1:23). Joseph received these words in a dream, reassuring him and urging him to not abandon Mary. I wonder if Joseph shared this dream with her. I wonder if they discussed what it meant to have a son who would be known as “God with us.” Somehow, it seems to me they understood the wonder of God’s presence in this child. As they were fleeing to Egypt, searching for a place to call home, and listening to horror stories of Herod’s actions back in Bethlehem, they must have held both the baby and that special name close to their hearts. There are days when I know deep down that God is with me. There are other bleak, empty days when I’m not so sure. But I repeat the name to myself, “Emmanuel. God is with us!” and in the name there is power.