January 1, 2017, Holy Name YR A

January 1, 2017, Holy name of our Lord Jesus Christ
The Rev. Deacon Anne Abdy


  1. “and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.”                                                             Luke 2:21
  2. When Father Brent asked me to preach a homily todayon the Feast of the Hoily Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, I got to thinking about names. Why do we name people? What are the meanings behind names? What is a Name?
  3. A name designates time and place, and maybe even title. In my family there are four Lurenas’, five Davids’, four Douglas’, three Marks’ each spelled with a “c” and a “k” or a “us” after my grandfather. You can only imagine the deciphering it takes when I want to send an email but it is clear that in my family, our given names are family names passed down four generations.
  4. The passing down of names is not new. The British Royal Family has done it and try to keep track of the different ancient Syria, Assyrian, Babylonian kings with numeric values behind their name. It is mind-bogging.
  5. So, here were are on the eighth day of Christmas and the innocent babe born a week ago, is named today. Up to now the Christ-Child has only been name as Mary’s first born. It is in keeping with Jewish Law that on the eighth day, all Jewish boys are circumcised and named.
  6. In the Jewish tradition, the naming ceremony is a two part action. Circumcision and the giving of a name. At the time of the circumcision surgery the child follows the ancient commandments and enters into a holy covenant joining the lineage of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. And in the naming ceremony the significance of the Hebrew and English names are explained, and the ancestors referenced in the blessing.[1]
  7. We know Gabriel told Mary in Luke’s accounting of the Annunciation (1:26-38) to name the unborn baby Jesus. In Matthew, chapter one, the angel of the Lord appears to Joseph in a dream (1:18-25) and tells him: “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
  8. The Gospels of Luke and Matthew do not tell us who was told first, but Joseph seems to get the more “stern” announcement. The angel using the words “you are” suggests maybe if Mary tells you the impossible just happened, you are to believe her and you are to call the baby Jesus.
  9. So why the name Jesus and not Jacob or David? Jesus is a popular name and we know this because Joshephous (an early church historian) reportedly knew 20 individuals named Jesus. Jesus, or “Yeshua” in Hebrew is the abbreviated form of the name Joshua meaning, “The Lord (YHWH) is help (or Salvation.)
  10. In Greek, the name is “Messiah” or the “Anointed One.”[2] Only kings, priests, and prophets were anointed. God in choosing to name his Son “Jesus,”chooses to set his Son apart from others. But since Jesus is also the “Anointed One” the baby’s place within the Davidic lineage is set.
  11. So in Jesus, God burst onto the scene at the Nativity a week ago. Today, it is at the breaking of the skin and the shedding of blood that is the foretelling of what is to come for this child.
  12. It is first Jesus’ birth, and now the naming of the One who brings salvation, that this Jesus continues to break into the cracks of our lives drawing us closer to Almighty God, the God of all creation, and thus fulfills his purpose in life.
  13. My prayer for the next year is that we will respond to those nudges as Jesus draws us closer to the Almighty.
  14. Happy New Year everyone!

[1]                Baby Hebrew Naming Ceremony, https://video.search.yahoo.com/yhs/search?fr=yhs-ddc-linuxmint&hsimp=yhs-linuxmint&hspart=ddc&p=youtube+of+a+jewish+naming+cermony#id=2&vid=c7d5027a920eef96ea5efba09da9ffa9&action=click

[2]    Footnotes for Matthew 1: 1-17, NRSV Annotated Bible, 1748.