What’s in a name? Any name? Let’s take the name “McDonald” as an example. What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the name “McDonald”. Hearing that name makes me think of at least two things. First it makes me want to sing “ei, ei, O!” Second it makes me think of that hamburger chain that I used to love to go to when I was a child. It was a decent hamburger back then and it wasn’t the merchandising machine it is now. But we certainly do recognize the things that are associated with a name. Another would be a group of Lutheran churches named “Grace” in the U.S.
There was a Grace Church in Texas that heard about the plight of a “Grace Church” in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. The building that Grace Church was using was destroyed by the hurricane leaving them without worship space. The Grace Church in Texas wanted to help their namesakes in Louisiana so they got involved. They could see how they were related, at least by name and that these relations needed to be cared for. As a result, a network of Grace Churches grew up to help those affected by Hurricane Katrina- they wanted to live up to their name and live out the grace poured out on them.
Then there are people and their nicknames. For example I have a number of nicknames from my time in the North. Clergy are given “nicknames by the elders out of the clergy’s personality and a common understanding of who the person is. So, to some of the elders in the Tahltan nation, I am known as liptlaidda (spelt phonetically) which means “preacher” or “storyteller”. To one elder in Old Crow Yukon I am gii hii inzi – the kind one who speaks the Truth. Some people in a congregation in another parish called me gii sill cho which I would translate as “little bishop” because of an incident with a bridge that got broken. All of us have our tags and labels that we wear – some by choice and others by imposition of others. Some of the tags are pleasant and others not so pleasant.
What is in the name of Jesus? It is important to know that Jesus is not a Hebrew name first of all but a Latin one. Jesus is from the name Hebrew name “Joshua” which means “God saves” or “God is salvation”. In this case it bespeaks the efforts that God is going to make to reach out and save his people through is only begotten Son. God is going to act and is going to heal and save his people. In naming their son Jesus, Mary and Joseph have accepted who their son is and they put their faith in God precisely because God has done what he said he would do. Having faith and belief answered makes them more devout and aware of their faith and the need to live it out.
On top of this, they had people coming to them for weeks after the child was born to see him and to then go and speak about him to others so that they might come and see him for themselves and praise God for what he is about to do in and through this child. The shepherds came and told what they had seen and heard and by doing so, surprised and encouraged Mary and Joseph after months of turmoil, fear and pain. The shepherds – outcasts in the rest of the society are the first humans to welcome the Christ Child into the world. Later on, the Magi came, bring their gifts and Simeon and Anna were in the Temple to welcome him when the matters of the Law came into play.
How does this impact on us? We as his Church as the Body of Christ, we need to bear his name, to tell of the deeds of Christ and live out the promise of God in his name. Mary and Joseph were faithful to live out what they had seen and heard. They named the boy Jesus. And through their faith and willingness to follow, they worked with God to enable salvation for all people. Others like the angels and the shepherds, the pilgrims including the Magi came to see the boy and left proclaiming the greatness of God and the wonders he is going to perform to save his people. We need to continue to do this, to bear the name of Christ faithfully in our own lives and tell people of the deeds God has done in Christ so that they might come home to God. As Church we need to live as people who know that God is faithful to his promises and will lead is people into health and salvation. God is faithful to his promises and he calls us to be faithful to our promises to him that we might live out our lives as witnesses to his grace and glory.
As we begin another year, let us take up his name, tell of his deeds and live into the promises that God has made to us and let us do so in Christ’s name.