Monday, January 1, 2007

There's Something About that Name...

Happy New Year! Today is the First Day of the New Year 2007. Hard to believe...whew! Another year gone by. But that is not all that today is. In the Christian Church calendar, today is a special day of Devotion, a Feast Day. And on this Feast day we celebrate the Holy Name of Jesus. This Feast Day occurs on the 8th day of Christmas. You see, eight days after the birth of Jesus, he had his bris. Like every devoted Jewish mother and father, Mary and Joseph presented Jesus on this day for circumcision and naming. (It was quite a celebration as a bris still is today.) And he was named Jesus as the angel Gabriel had instructed Mary nine months earlier (Luke 1:26-38,2:21) and had explained to Joseph that this child was the promised Messiah who would "save his people from their sins." (Matthew 1:21)

Have you ever wondered where the name Jesus comes from, or what it means? The name Jesus is from the same Hebrew root name as Joshua - pronounced like Yeshua - and it means "savior" or "deliverer." You might remember the Biblical story and children's song about Joshua who "fought the battle of Jericho...and the walls came tumblin' down..." One girl at a youth group meeting several years ago confessed that as a young child she thought the words to that little ditty were "Joshua bought a bottle of cherry coke." But I digress...

Anyway...Joshua delivered his people, the House of Joseph, and other tribes of the Israelites, from 40 years of wandering in the wilderness into the Promised Land. He finished the job of the Exodus that Moses had begun but was prevented by God from completing. Alas, the Promised Land was not to be a forever thing. Eventually the Israelites end up dividing their kingdom in two, getting into some battles with the Babylonians and Assyrians and having many of their people dispossesed of land and tribe as they were exiled by the Babylonians.

The Biblical book of Isaiah is filled with prophecies of hope and expectation for the lost, exiled and eventually repatriated Israelites. It is here in Isaiah that we hear of the Good News prophecy of the Savior: "For a son has been born for us, a son has been given to us, and dominion has been laid on his shoulders; and this is the name that he has been given, "Wonder-Counsellor, Mighty-God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace..." [New Jerusalem Bible translation]. Fitting, isn't it then, that the one who receives the Holy Name of Jesus (Yeshua) is in fact the Savior foretold in Isaiah and the one who finally and decisively fulfills the Promise of Release (exodus). "Then as now, people longed to be freed from evils: political, social, and spiritual. The name of Jesus calls to mind the true freedom which is ours through Jesus the Christ."*

Jesus, Mighty-God, lands us in that place of Promise and restarts that work that was begun in the beginning in creation. It is through the Name of Jesus that we can be released from oppression in our own lives. It is through the Name of Jesus that we can be made a new creation.

So, Happy New Year! Celebrate the fullness of this day. And claim the potential fullness of the coming year. Let's celebrate the end of this first day of the new year with this prayer: Eternal Father, you gave to your incarnate son the holy name of Jesus to be the sign of our salvation: Plant in every heart, we pray, the love of him who is the Savior of the world, our Lord Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen."*

*Both the prayer and the quote are from the Episcopal Church's Publication, "Lesser Feasts and Fasts, 1991"


Gallycat said...

Hi Jennifer+ --

I live in Annandale. Nice to see another local Episcopalian on board with the RGBP!


Jennifer+ said...

Thanks Gallycat - I'm definitely enjoying the welcome of this eclectic group. At which church do you prowl?