And he was called Jesus - Reflections 1-1-20

Numbers 6:22-27
Psalm 8
Philippians 2:5-11 
Luke 2:15-21

The eighth day of Christmas, also known as New Year’s Day, is the Commemoration of the Name of Jesus. Luke tells us that 8 days after his birth, Jesus was circumcised and officially given the name of Jesus “the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.”

And thus, we begin the new year in, with, and under the name of Jesus. What does that mean?

Knowing a person’s name is important. It means they are no longer an unknown thing; you know something (often just a little) about that person and creates the possibility of knowing more.

Some people use that something to gain power “over” them. 
Bullies taunt with names… and rude permutations of it. Others use names to threaten: You can’t hide from me; I know your name.  And then there’s blackmail. I know who you are and I saw what you did and this is what it will take to keep me quiet. 

Often these days, misinformation - or downright lies - get attached to one's name. Or the use of someone's name to gain more information usually with the goal of getting access to their money. Both of those can take years to overcome.

These are the broken places we go to when we use a name for power. We don’t have to go to those places with Jesus’ name and yet…many of us who know Jesus' name have, and still do.

The history of Christianity is riddled with who is “in” and who is “out” in the name of Jesus. Over its long history, the Church has used Jesus' name to judge and exclude people for all manner of reasons, many that are simply a part of their being like skin color, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or even where they were born. It has also been a place where people who don’t believe "correctly" (like, maybe, believing those listed above are in fact included in God's beloved community), or who call out actions that do not represent Jesus’ name and ministry, or who just tell the truth about a wrong within the church... those folks have been scorned, dismissed as apostate, and even killed.

On the more positive side of things, knowing someone’s name and something about them represents at least a beginning relationship. Being called by name is a step toward connection with another. God asked Adam to name the animals as they were created which has created a connection between humans and all living things. (How's that relationship going?)

At Christmas God came to earth, put on flesh, and was called Jesus (one who saves). That action and name nurtured - and changed - a relationship of love, mercy, and grace between God and the world God so loved. Jesus’ name brings the power of God’s love, mercy and justice into our lives. Jesus looked into the faces of all kinds of broken and hurting people and named them "loved" and worthy of places of dignity and honor.

At worship, when people come forward and indicate that they choose not to receive communion, as a server at the Feast, I bless them. I make a cross on their forehead and say “May Jesus bless and keep you always”. May Jesus reach out to you and touch whatever it is that needs to be held in God’s mercy. 

The liturgical resource we use in our worship planning describes the act of blessing: 
To bless people is to call down upon them the good will of God. The casual phrase used when someone sneezes—Bless you! —is not a polite pleasantry, but a prayer for divine visitation. 
Or, maybe better than visitation, we call down divine presence of someone who knows your name and loves you deeply. Always.

When the angel said to Mary "call him Jesus", the angel didn’t mention that the name would echo through history. The Philippians text for today says that God gave him a name that is above all names. I’m not sure what that means. But verses 6-8 assure us that it is not a name to fear. Rather one to worship. 

The something we know about Jesus when we know his name is that it is full of grace and truth. Resurrection and Life; King of Kings; Lamb of God; Christ/Messiah; Word of God; Light of the World; the Way, the Truth, and the Life; Alpha and Omega; Bread of Life; Prince of Peace; Good Shepherd; Emmanuel.

Today, as we start a new year, we are reminded that we could spend a lifetime- and more - getting to know Jesus’ name and what that means for our lives.

Happy New Year!

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Written by Pam Larabee-Zierath


Gathered by Grace, Scattered for Service
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