Matthew 1:21-25: But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
"Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel”
(which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus. (ESV)
Luke 1: 31-33: And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” (ESV)
Luke 1: 46-55
And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
50 And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
55 as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”
Luke 2:21: And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.
“To be quite frank, we do not at all like the idea of a “chosen people.” Democrats by birth and education, we should prefer to think that all nations and individuals start level in the search for God, or even that all religions are equally true. It must be admitted at once that Christianity makes no concessions to this point of view. It does not tell of a human search for God at all, but of something done by God for, to, and about Man. And the way in which it is done is selective, undemocratic, to the highest degree. After the knowledge of God had been universally lost or obscured, one man from the whole earth (Abraham) is picked out. He is separated (miserably enough, we may suppose) from his natural surroundings, sent into a strange country, and made the ancestor of a nation who are to carry the knowledge of the true God. Within this nation there is further selection: some die in the desert, some remain behind in Babylon. There is further selection still. The process grows narrower and narrower, sharpens at last into one small bright point like the head of a spear. It is a Jewish girl at her prayers. All humanity (so far as concerns its redemption) has narrowed to that.” (C.S. Lewis, Miracles, Chapter 14)
It's fascinating to me when God bothers to command parents to give their children specific names. First, it seems strange that a name should matter at all to someone's destiny. Can't God achieve his purposes through someone, even if their name is not Jesus, or John, or Maher-shalal-hash-baz? I mean, the patriarchs of the twelve tribes of Israel were given joke-names, for crying out loud, that alluded to the Great Conception Contest between Rachel and Leah, and they still managed to accomplish a good deal (namely, to become patriarchs and throw Joseph in a well). The second odd thing about this practice of God telling Mary and Joseph what to name Jesus is that God could have pulled the right strings and pushed the right buttons in terms of Mary and Joseph's mental processes and upbringing, so that they simply arrived at the name "Jesus" naturally. But he didn't. He instead wanted their cooperation and obedience in giving this tiny body an audible identifier.
When we've given our kids names, it's always reminded me a bit of that part at the beginning of Peter Pan where he's lost his shadow, and can't put it back on, so Wendy has to sew it to him--and even then, it's touch-and-go. He's not sure if it will take. Here's this beautiful little miracle that you've known about for several months but are only now just getting to know as a separate person, and you have the presumption to give it a label that never, at first, seems to stick. Later, of course, you can't think of the baby having any other name, but that's after they've really grown into it, and the man-made name has been fused irrevocably to the God-made baby. At first the name seems arbitrary and the verbal stitch job you've just done of applying three (or more) names to this endlessly potential creature seems clumsy indeed. It is, in some ways, the first conscious effort you've made in marking a baby (which seems like a blank canvas) with the particular markings of your own culture. You've now taken an active role in tethering this natural thing to your particular civilization. I bet this is part of the reason that, in Jesus' culture, naming went along with circumcision. When you do it, you are inflicting a particular cultural identity on something that transcends this identity--but is attached to and shaped by it all the same--and you are acknowledging that this eternal soul has a specific destiny.
In reality, of course, not only have you marked the child already (by speaking your language around him while he was in the womb, by eating certain foods, by passing your genes on), but the ideal, universal baby you hold has many of your particular quirks, flaws, and virtues that are just waiting to manifest themselves. Now, the God of the Hebrews, who has refused to give himself a name, other than I Am that I Am (despite permitting cultural shorthands that have become generic words for gods or nobility, such as "Elohim," "Lord," "Adonai," "God," "Deus") has commanded that this bewildered couple name the Incarnate Word itself! And the name--"Jesus"--is entirely culturally conventional. There are other guys named Jesus mentioned, even in the Gospels.
Yet now the transcendent, absolute Principle of Life has addressed himself to human beings, using the name "Jesus," which in his chosen, particular culture links him with Joshua (the successor of Moses, who led Israel into the Promised Land), and also means "one who saves." So Yahweh, whose name in Hebrew is basically "Don't try to label me because I'm not small enough for your categories," has given himself a particular identity that aligns with his function relative to Israel (and--as it happens--to all humanity): "You will call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." God the Son, existing before eternity in Trinity with the Father and Spirit, is now named Jesus. In becoming Incarnate, he has drawn humanity up into the eternal Godhead, and thus makes the particularities of Jesus' genes, Jesus' traditions, Jesus' languages, into specific facets of Almighty God. Jesus' human, first-century Aramaic Jewishness and the salvation of humans are now a central aspect of the identity of God. It would be scandalous enough to treat them as means by which God has identified himself to us: "You finite people should think of Me, transcendent though I am, as a Jewish guy named Jesus because your tiny minds can't comprehend Me." But this "scandal of particularity," as it has been called, goes deeper: Because God exists as Trinity, in community, the specific cultural elements and mission are now part of the way Jesus is identified to the Father, through the Holy Spirit. God has, in other words, used human culture and categories--as well as Christ's own mission relative to humans--to identify himself to himself. The Son is "Jesus" not only to us, but to the Father and Holy Spirit.
This brings us to Mary, the "Theotokos," the God-bearer, from whom Christ most directly took his humanity, his cultural and genetic heritage, and his name (she is called the God-bearer, by the way, not to imply that she herself is divine, but to emphasize the fact that Christ, whom she bore, is fully God). Her song of praise, the "Magnificat," in Luke 1, is very well known, to the point that we often forget how culturally specific it is. It could be taken straight from the Psalms, and could be interpreted (as an editorial in The Washington Post has recently, rather gleefully, pointed out) along purely political lines. The list of things Mary announces that her child will do fit in perfectly with the expectations of the Jewish Messiah that were held during her time (and that cost Jesus many followers when he refused them). The Savior, the Jesus her song anticipates will overthrow the present, particular tyrants who oppress her own people. I do not know if, at this time, she sees beyond this, to anticipate the means by which this occurs: How God will take a thoroughly Jewish song like the Magnificat, and a thoroughly Jewish figure like the Messiah, and--through Mary's response--fulfill it in a way that transcends particulars and transforms humanity itself, destroying Death and Sin and allowing for all people to be adopted as sons of God.
For Jesus, while absolutely one with his culture, refused to allow that culture to limit the salvation he brought. Mary, born (as her Son was) of a particular people, voices longings that can ultimately be answered, not by a change of regime but only by the regeneration worked in the hearts of her people and all people. And Mary, through whom Jesus is born, who assents to the Incarnation, who works with God to give to God a people and a name, becomes, in a sense, our own Jewish mother. For her Son draws us toward him, toward the fulfillment of the longings of every heart, in every culture within the eternal exchange of love and life that exists within the Trinity. This is thanks to the marks he received at the hands of the Gentiles, when he was named "King of the Jews." It is here that we receive our new marks, our new names.