The Naming of Jesus

Numbers 6: 22-27
Galations 4: 4-7
Luke 2:16-21

What’s in a name?

Names are important to us as humans: they are, quite literally, our identities, they define who we are. . Since language has existed, what a person is called has been crucially important both to the individual and to the community. Most of us here know each other’s name although we may be familiar with each other’s name we might not be as familiar with their meanings.

My name, for example, is Deborah is Hebrew for bee and means, believe it or not, ‘busy’. Carol means champion, strong. Sheila is from the Latin meaning heavenly. We have a lot of heavenly beings at St. Margaret’s! The Hebrew meaning of Jean is gift from God. The Scottish meaning of the name Ray is grace. Andrew means manly, Zandra is defender of mankind, Angela means angel or messenger.

In all cultures names are important. I think that I have mentioned before my times in Africa. In African cultures the first gift that you can give your child is a noble African name. They will wear it all their life and will hopefully, live by the name given. Their name links them with the past, their ancestors and their spirituality. A name is critical to self-determination and fulfilment. Eshe is Swahili for life, Jaha is Swahili for dignity and Rehema means compassion. I did however feel sorry for the seventh child of a family that I knew in the village of Bugoigo, where I lived. He was called ‘enough’!

Names are also important in the Abrahamic religions, including Christianity. In the book of Genesis, God names things as God creates them — including the first human: “Adam,” who is created out of adamah, the earth. After God creates and names the human, God has Adam name all of the animals.

Throughout Genesis, and the rest of the Bible, names are changed to reflect new identities and purposes. Abram becomes Abraham and Sarai becomes Sarah. Jacob becomes Israel, the one who struggles with God. In the New Testament, Saul becomes Paul and Simon becomes Peter, the Rock upon which the Church is built. From creation, names have been given the highest importance. They are more than just words. They often convey a person’s place and purpose in the world.

In our gospel reading we hear about the circumcision and naming of Jesus eight days after his birth, in keeping with the Jewish law. B’rit Milah, the covenant of circumcision, symbolises the covenant that Abraham entered into with God. It is also a sign of a child entering the Jewish community, the community of the descendants of Israel. It is at this ceremony that, as well as being circumcised, a child is given their Hebrew name – in this case Jesus. The name Jesus means “Saviour.” It has the same derivation as the name as Joshua in the Old Testament. Joshua took over the mantle of Moses as he led the people of Israel to a new beginning in the Promised Land. Jesus, Saviour of the world, God incarnate, born as a baby, brings us a new beginning, a new beginning for us as individuals, as a community and for the whole world.
Jesus, Saviour of the world brings new beginnings to all.

Today we celebrate New Year’s Day, the start of a New Year. Traditionally we see it as a time of new beginnings, new hopes and new dreams. Although we nowadays look with cynicism on New Year’s resolutions, there is a purpose in both looking back with thanksgiving and in looking forward with hope with Jesus, our Saviour, at the centre of all that we do. What about us here at St. Margaret’s?

Last year it was our year of fellowship. We had lots of social opportunities provided by the social circle, the social committee, the Mother’s Union, events at the vicarage and of course, ‘Staycation’. All were opportunities to get to know each other and deepen relationships. This year we build on our year of fellowship as we enter our ‘Year of Growth’ particularly spiritual growth. We will still be having our fellowship activities, including Staycation 2017, but there will be an emphasis on spiritual growth, including prayer.

During the next year there will be many opportunities for spiritual growth and prayer.

* Our Lent course will focus on creative prayer including prayer through art, music, Tai Chi, poetry and using the imagination.

* We will be continuing with our Stations of the Cross and hope to include a Passion Trail in Heaton Park with Stations of the Cross.
* Our parish retreat will be at Parcivall Hall will be ‘growing in prayer and spirituality.’
* Staycation Week will be 7th-11th August. All are welcome.
* During Dedication Week (3rd-10th September) church will be open every day for prayer and hopefully, music recitals. Our Sunday morning Dedication service will be led by Archdeacon David.
* Our Harvest weekend will focus on Harvest of Talents (Sept 30th – Oct 1st) where we hope to have an exhibition of talents in church to coincide with our Harvest lunch.

There will be the opportunity for us all to deepen our faith in many different ways.

I was recently given this poem by a member of the congregation. It is a prayer attributed by Sir Frances Drake, which is believed to be written by him before setting sail from Portsmouth in 1577.The journey would lead to his knighthood and fame as the second person to circumnavigate the globe.

Disturb us, Lord, when we are too well pleased with ourselves.
When our dreams have come true because we have dreamed too little.
When we arrive safely because we sailed too close to the shore.
Disturb us, Lord, when with the abundance of the things we possess
We have lost our thirst for the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life, we have ceased to dream of eternity.
And in our efforts to build a new earth, we have allowed our vision of the new Heaven to dim.
Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly, to venture on wider seas.
Where storms will show your mastery;
Where losing sight of the land, we shall find the stars.
We ask you to push back the horizons of our hopes.
And to push into the future in strength, courage, hope and love.

Today, as we celebrate the naming of Jesus, our Saviour, we ask God to be with us as we
‘push into the future in strength, courage, hope and love.’

In the words of our first reading
“May 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.”
I have a little New Year’s gift for all of you – to remind us of today – the naming of Jesus, our Saviour and the start of 2017.

It contains
A penny so that you will never be broke.
A marble for those days when you think that you have lost yours!
Elastic to help you stretch beyond your current limits.
An eraser so that you know God’s full forgiveness.
String to hold it altogether when things seem to be falling apart.
A safety pin to help with unseen emergencies.
A T-light so that you are not afraid in the darkness.
A sweet so that you know that someone cares for you.
God’s blessing as He walks alongside you this year.
(“May 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.”)

Happy New Year!
Amen.

But we find Jesus today in the Gospel passage born in a stable, with no one but his parents and some low-born shepherds to celebrate and spread news of his birth. He’s born poor to young parents, named on the eighth day like every other Jewish boy, and becomes a refugee in Egypt at a young age. But we are also told that he is named by an angel before he is conceived. We are also told that angels announce his birth to the shepherds. This ordinary poor boy is also holy — our God has become flesh and lived among us, not as a king, but as a carpenter’s son.

From those beginnings, Jesus, whose holy name simply means “to save,” lives as God-made-flesh who is not so much interested in dominance as in making the ordinary holy. The ordinary life of a thirty-year-old man born in an occupied land is also the holy life of the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Ordinary people become holy pillars of a new faith: Peter, the fisherman; Mary, the girl engaged to the carpenter; Matthew, the tax collector; Mary, the woman who went to put spices on the body of the executed teacher. Sinners become saints.

Ordinary bread and wine become the holy body and blood of God.

And in baptism, ordinary water becomes holy and washes ordinary people clean and welcomes them into the family of God — in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Names are important to us and to our faith: they help us to define ourselves, each other, and our world.

The name of Jesus makes the ordinary holy.

It is not a magic word, and it is not an incantation. It is not meant to denote dominance. In the holy name of the ordinary poor boy who was God-made-flesh, our own names, our own bodies, are made holy.

The name of Jesus makes the ordinary holy.

We, ordinary people, ordinary flesh, are made holy by the God born in a stable in an occupied land. The name of Jesus makes the ordinary holy. Therefore, as we begin another ordinary year in the Holy Name of Jesus, let us pray that God would make our ordinary year holy: may we seek and find God this year in the ordinary, for God has made the ordinary sacred. May we find God in the poor children born in the occupied lands. May we find God in the marginalized and oppressed of our own nation. May we find God in our ordinary neighbors, for the name of Jesus makes the ordinary holy.

Amen.

Happy New Year!
The start of a new year, new beginnings, new hopes, new dreams. Nowadays we perhaps look with cynicism on New Year’s resolutions. There is no point, you only keep them for a few days etc. etc. and before we know it we are half way through the New Year with no memory of where we at the beginning of the year.
In ancient Roman religion and myth, Janus was the god of beginnings, gates, transitions, time, doorways, passages, and endings. He is usually depicted as having two faces, since he looks to the future and to the past.
Janus presided over the beginning and ending of conflict, and hence war and peace. The doors of his temple were open in time of war, and closed to mark the peace. As a god of transitions, he had functions pertaining to birth and to journeys and exchange, and in his association with Portunus, a similar harbour and gateway god, he was concerned with travelling, trading and shipping.
And so New Year is accounted with looking back and looking to the future.

importance of naming ceremonies
“There must be a beginning of any great matter, but the continuing unto the end until it be thoroughly finished yields the true glory.”
― Francis Drake
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.

Names
Jesus – Joshua, Jesus saves.
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.
I was recently given this poem by a member of the congregation. It is a prayer attributed by Sir Frances Drake, which is believed to be written by him before setting sail from Portsmouth in 1577.The journey would lead to his knighthood and fame as the second person to circumnavigate the globe.

Disturb us, Lord, when we are too well pleased with ourselves.
When our dreams have come true because we have dreamed too little.
When we arrive safely because we sailed too close to the shore.
Disturb us, Lord, when with the abundance of the things we possess
We have lost our thirst for the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life, we have ceased to dream of eternity.
And in our efforts to build a new earth, we have allowed our vision of the new Heaven to dim.
Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly, to venture on wider seas.
Where storms will show your mastery;
Where losing sight of the land, we shall find the stars.
We ask you to push back the horizons of our hopes.
And to push into the future in strength, courage, hope and love

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