Week of – First Sunday After Christmas / New Year’s Day / Holy Name of Jesus Day; Calling on the Name of . . . . Everyone!

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”
So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.” ( Galatians 4:4-7)

There are three possibilities of name focus here; there is the name of Jesus Christ, which is the theme of the “Holy Name of Jesus Day”. Jesus as the Son of God was born about 2000 years and five days ago – according to way we celebrate his birth. The story of Jesus’ naming is told with different gospels stories each lectionary year, and each gospel gives a little different emphasis. The focus of each gospel, including this year’s, is that Jesus was named Jesus with all the meaning and portent involved.

But there is also in this passage God named as “Abba Father”. And that name has meaning and portent also. We call on God not as the stern authority of the Almighty but as the gentle Parent that looks on us with love and that we love as a small child loves a parent with condition or hesitation. The gospels also reflect that is the type of relationship that Jesus had with God. And encourages us to have.

Lastly, there is our name. Not the name our parents gave us or the name we have chosen for ourselves, nor even the name that others have for us. No, this name is the name God knows us as, children of the Lord – called by the Lord God into relationship with the Divine. It is because of Jesus – called as he is – that we call on the Lord Almighty as Abba Father. And that the Lord God calls us children of God. I said before, names are important. Names define and imply relationships. And the relationships we have shape our lives.

We are coming to the end of one year, and readying to enter a new year. May the relationships you have with others be joyful and loving. And may your relationship with the Divine, however you name it and define it, be life giving. Selah!

Week of – First Sunday After Christmas / New Year’s Day / Holy Name of Jesus Day; What’s in a name?

The gospel of Luke has an account of Jesus’ infancy that the gospel of Matthew does not include. It branches from when Jesus was just born (perhaps) to some time before the arrival of the wise men. Or maybe Matthew left out this account, or Luke left out the flight to Egypt. The first of months of Jesus’ life are most often seen in hindsight to his later life. Jesus’ birth was significant at the time to only those who were there and witnessed it. The rest of us are dependent on the accounts that come down to us, passing through history, memory, and the oral tradition.

This passage from Luke takes up from just after the heavenly chorus, out on the hills and fields surrounding Bethlehem.

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.” (Luke 2:15-20)

I can imagine a young woman, who most probably according the the tradition of the time, was quite sheltered and had not experienced much of the wide world. She became pregnant without “knowing a man”. She delivered a child without any one with experience to help her. And she was sought out by many people, and much was made of her child. Pondering must have helped her take all this in and process it. As did the customs of the time.

“After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.” (Verse 21)

This passage from Luke is part of the 4 sets of scripture that comprise the Holy Name of Jesus Day. Those passages center in names, naming and being named, with Philippians 2: 11 the verse “ . . and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Names are important. If I may bring in a bit of contemporary culture, I am reminded of some of the books in the Harry Potter series, where Voldemort is called “he who shall not be named” – if I am quoting it correctly. The idea was, I think, that naming him gave him undue power and influence over the speaker, or called to mind the horrors that he had done and inflicted. But not naming him also gave him power – avoidance, fear, and awe. In the Jewish tradition the name of God is also not spelled out completely, the idea being that it is too sacred to be written out or said aloud. And yet Jesus called God “Abba Father” – a child’s name for the male parent.

We who espouse strong and deep belief in God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are careful how, when, where, and why we use those names. Names are important. But just as important is to call on the Divine, giving the God-self the name that fits our needs and believe. Let us not avoid using the proper names of the Divine, nor neglecting to call on the Divine. Jesus came to earth for many reasons, and one of which was to fully define and fulfill the name of God. Selah!

Second Sunday After Christmas Day: Holy Name of Jesus Day

This is a day in the liturgical year that celebrates the naming of Jesus. Usually celebrated on Jan 1, being eight days after Jesus birth when he would have been dedicated and circumcised. The Revised Common Lectionary does not always have verses used on the days specified by biblical chronology. And since I do not post on Friday, which is January first this year, I decided to use the following scripture passages this day.

Psalm 8 is wonderfully suited to this day. Stop and think a moment on the coincidence of the writer of Psalms writing this praise to God far in advance of any humanly known plan for Jesus’ birth. But God, in the way that God is all-knowing knew. From the time that it was written, down through the years, it has been a celebration of the Almighty God, and a thanksgiving that humanity has been so adored by God as to promote the gift of God’s son to us.

O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory above the heavens.
Out of the mouths of babes and infants you have founded a bulwark because of your foes,
to silence the enemy and the avenger.

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them? Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor.
You have given them dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” (Psalm 8)

God from the very beginning of calling out the Lord’s people had desired to set them apart as a testimony to the Lord’s involvement in humanity. In some respects the birth of Jesus was the beginning of a new relationship between God and humanity. But in other respects it was a culmination of what God had always hoped would be the relationship between the God-self and humanity.

The Book of Numbers is a culling together of God’s people, forming them by laws and rules, teaching them how to get along. It is often misunderstood and used out of context. Some of its laws and rules do not (or should not) apply now. It’s main attempt, I think, is to give structure to God’s people’s lives. They were to be God’s people – often getting wrong the way the should live, and substituting strict admonitions for caring compassion. In that respect, not much has changed. But God’s intentions are clear.

The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the Israelites: You shall say to them, . . . . So they shall put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.” (Number 6:22-23, 27)

The blessing that was given to God’s people at that time is a blessing that has been passed down generation to generation. I have used it several times, and each occasion is marked especially in my mind. I give it to you, beloved reader, as a reminder that who ever you are, you are favored and loved by God, known and named as a child of God . Selah!

The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;
the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.”

(Numbers 6:24-26)