Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Omicron — these are the names given by the World Health Organisation to differing strains of the Sars-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19.
In themselves they don’t mean much but are easier to remember by the general public.
In the Bible, however, names are highly significant — reflecting the character, nature or calling of the person named.
At Christmas, we reflect on some of these names associated with the coming of Jesus — and they highlight how, during the darkness of these days, there is room for hope.
He is called the Alpha and the Omega — that is to say the beginning and the end, who has the first and last word — creating this beautiful world in which we live, resolving the mess we have made of it.
Wherever we are in the middle of those two things they neither take him by surprise, nor do they frustrate his loving plans and purposes.
In fulfilment of prophecy, he is called Emmanuel — which means “God with us”. It is so important for us to hold onto the truth that we have not been abandoned by God, but he is present here with us now.
The entry of Jesus into the world at a time of national crisis; in a place which is notorious for its ongoing strife and warfare; at a time of corrupt and harsh leadership; in poverty and obscurity; to a world where there was no room, his “incarnation” — literally becoming flesh and bone like us and his deliberate love-filled decision to do so — show the depths to which he is present with all who call on him.
2021 has been a really hard year — not just in terms of physical health, but also mental health, economic security and even due to the latent violence and frustration in our community which spills out with tragic consequences from time to time.
But God is with us, giving daily strength, a shoulder to cry on, an ear to hear our pleas, an aid to give us the ability to stand.
Due to the virus, many are still in isolation or separated from loved ones. Emmanuel is there. We too, who know him are also here with you in his name.
The name Jesus itself means “God is salvation”. Not only is God with us, but in the coming of Jesus has done something to bring salvation — from ourselves and our selfish ways, from our enmity with others and our estrangement from God.
His salvation provides the possibility of forgiveness, reconciliation and transformation and give the hope of eternal life, joy and peace that not even death can sever.
He is the light of the world. He is the King of kings. He is a friend of sinners. The list of names and attributes is never ending.
It is my prayer for each individual, family and community that, if nothing else, you may experience joy, peace and the love of God who is with you, for you — that your hearts will rise up with thanksgiving for the gifts of life, hope and healing.
It is my prayer that this will continue beyond the Christmas celebrations into the New Year, in Jesus’ name.