Sat Dec 11-The Power of a Name

During Advent, we are featuring devotionals written by clergy of the Greater NJ Annual Conference of the UMC. For this second week, we are focused on reflections related to Joseph, based on the Gospel of Matthew.

Matthew 1:18-25 (CEB)

18 This is how the birth of Jesus Christ took place. When Mary his mother was engaged to Joseph, before they were married, she became pregnant by the Holy Spirit. 19 Joseph her husband was a righteous man. Because he didn’t want to humiliate her, he decided to call off their engagement quietly. 20 As he was thinking about this, an angel from the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because the child she carries was conceived by the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you will call him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” 22 Now all of this took place so that what the Lord had spoken through the prophet would be fulfilled:

23 Look! A virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son,
        And they will call him, Emmanuel.

(Emmanuel means “God with us.”)

24 When Joseph woke up, he did just as an angel from God commanded and took Mary as his wife. 25 But he didn’t have sexual relations with her until she gave birth to a son. Joseph called him Jesus.


When my parents found out that they were expecting me, they did not want to find out what my gender was going to be prior to my birth. For the long nine months of my mother’s pregnancy with me, my parents lovingly referred to me as Pat. Why… honestly I am still not sure! But, my mom secretly believed with all of her heart that I was going to be a boy. With that, she and my father settled on a name – Dominic Russell Martone – two very important names of men on both my father and mother’s sides, and a name that would bring out the best Italian in me (discovering I’m only 3% Italian from is a totally different story…). My mother and father were both so convinced that they were going to have a boy they did not even consider settling on a name for a girl.

Well, on the day of my birth, there was no Dominic Russell being born to my family. Instead, there was a little girl… my mom panicked about what to name me. Somehow, though we’re not entirely sure how, the name Gabrielle came to her.

Years later, during one of those elementary school projects when you’re supposed to figure out what your name means, I learned this story and learned that Gabrielle means “woman of God” or “faithful one.” As a person who
experienced a call to ministry at four years old, I thought it was a sign!

The names we have, and the names we give have power to them, and they mean something about who we are. Now, not everyone is named so clearly like Jesus is as Emmanuel but there is something powerful about how we call people.

Jesus’ entrance into this world, the name Emmanuel, it means something for us – not just something for a moment, but a truth for eternity – God is with us. We are not alone. And that, that is everything.

by the Rev. Gabrielle Corbett

For Pondering & Prayer

Do you know the story of your name? How do you perceive that the story, or the meaning of your name, has influenced your life?

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