So many pondurables thread their way through this season of the year. Each one, a holy glimpse at the Son sent by the Father to save the world, to save us. Each one, deeper insight into who God is and why we needed Him so much. Each thought-provoking vignette–the shepherds, the stable, the angels, the moving star–speaking of something far richer than just the surface of the scene.
It’s a concept we repeat when we set about writing a novel, making the details mean more than just what they do on the surface, the action representing larger truths.
This larger truth nestled into my heart today. Luke 2:21 CEB tells us that eight days after Jesus was born, His parents circumcised him, according to custom. It was on Day Eight, the Bible tells us, that He was officially called Jesus. “This was the name given to him by the angel before he was conceived.”
The Savior of the world was not only prophesied, foretold. He was named ahead of time. Not just while in the womb, but before he was even conceived.
The angel delivered that message, too, to Mary. “You shall call his name Jesus.” And that proclamation was made before Mary was even pregnant, while she and the angel were still discussing things.
What a poignant detail! It matters to the Christmas season and matters to us as Christ followers.
But it matters to us also as novelists.
God had a title for our book picked out before we were awakened at three in the morning with the idea for the story. He knew where–or if–it would be published. He’s had the sales figures all mapped out since before time began. He knows our first, next, and last contract. He even knows what our characters will be named. And who will read our books.
Long before they’re conceived.
He knows what shelf the book will inhabit in the bookstore in Phoenix and the library in Providence, Rhode Island. He knows the exact card table and the exact garage and the exact rummage sale where a dog-eared copy will be purchased for a quarter, read by the purchaser, and a life changed.
He even knows what scenes our editors are going to suggest we drop.
He knows. All of that is unknown to us. But we can rest because He does know.
We may not hear the proclamation, “Thou shalt call your heroine’s name Betty Sue, for she shall be a CPA.” But we can relax into the comfort and the wonder that all of it, all of it, all of it has been known to God before our idea was ever conceived.
Back to that detail in the Christmas story. It was a normal length pregnancy, according to the biblical record. When her friends and family suggested names, Mary must have listened politely and in her heart said, “I already know the baby’s name. It’s a boy. And he’ll be called Jesus. The angel said so.”
Then the child was born. The official naming ceremony was eight days later, but all week long, she knew there was no debate, no wondering, no need to Google cool baby names. It had been decided in eternity past. The ceremony merely served as the public announcement of record.
And now, it is our privilege to call on that Name above all names. Whether whispered, cried, or shouted, in anguish or in joy, we lean on that decided-long-ago name–Jesus.