“She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus [Yeshua — YHWH saves], because he will save his people from their sins? (Matthew 1:21). Christmas is about salvation and God saves at Advent. Here is a word that has fallen out of favor with many today since it connotes fundamentalism for many. So, let’s take a look at it again.
To be saved means to be rescued from something, some condition, or someone. Jesus “saves” humans/his people from the condition of their sins.
What surprises many who look at the word “save” in the Gospels is that it so connected to healing — God’s saving work is holistic. For instance, when the disciples’ boat was about to capsize, they wanted “salvation” (8:25). When Jesus was on the cross he was taunted about saving himself (27:40).
At the heart of the word “save” in the Gospels, however, is this sense of personal salvation. Here’s a good text: “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it” (16:25).
And Matthew sums up what Advent is by saying Jesus, God Saves, is the name given to the Child because he will “save” his people “from their sins.” Notice there, though, that this transcends the simply personal to be “his people.” Jesus’ salvation is the consummation of God’s plan for Israel, the people of God. Israel’s sins includes, but cannot be limited to this, their “exile” — so that when Zechariah sings about salvation in the Benedictus he means deliverance from the enemies. Surely this social aspect is involved in Matthew 1:21 as well.
There is no idea for the reader to know how Jesus will be this Savior for his people, but one can rest on this: the Story about to unfold in Matthew 1 through 28 is the story of God’s Saving work through Jesus, the one named “God Saves.” The major moments are his life — his baptism, his temptation, his entire ministry — his death and his resurrection.