The Holy Name (Year B)
Scripture Readings*: Numbers 6:22-27, Galatians 4:4-7, Luke 2:15-21, Psalm 8
In pronouncing God’s favor on the people, the priest was to use a prescription for blessing. This beautiful benediction’s purpose is clear: the desire of the Lord is to provide His people with His name.
The name of the Lord is identical to the Lord Himself so that this blessing becomes an appeal that God will live among His people and meet all their needs. He alone can bless His people, keep them, look on them with favor (make His face shine and turn His face toward them), be gracious to them, and give them peace.
Under Old Testament Law, Israel was held prisoner, “locked up” to keep them out of trouble until Jesus came (3:23). Now as “sons of God”, God has given believers His Spirit. The cry “Abba, Father,” implies a clear distinction between slave and family member. Only a child has the privilege of such warm and direct address. Only a child has such immediate access to a parent. Paul’s point is that “sons (and daughters)” have no need to be locked up and no need of a guardian. As sons we have direct access to God and also a matchless resource that enables us to be holy—the Holy Spirit Himself.
The shepherds understood that the angels were speaking for the Lord. They believed the message and went to confirm it for themselves. Such an attitude contrasts sharply with that of the religious leaders who knew where the Baby was to be born but did not take the time or the effort to confirm it for themselves (Matt. 2:5). After seeing the Baby, the shepherds were the first messengers to proclaim the arrival of the Messiah: they spread the word, and those who heard were amazed.
Mary and Joseph carried out the pronouncement of the angel by naming their Son according to the word that had come to Mary before her Baby’s conception (Matt. 1:18-21). The name Jesus is very appropriate, for it means: “Yahweh is salvation”.
What’s In A Name?
Who are your folks? In the south, when meeting someone for the first time, it’s a common practice to ask this question. Knowing the names of those who raised you instantly tells a lot about you and your values. Depending upon your family, the simple act of knowing your name can open doors, create opportunity, and earn favor.
Through the gift of His Son, God has adopted us into His family, giving us His name. Through Him, our place in this world – and in the world to come – is secure. We bear the name of Christ; our identity is now linked directly to God through Jesus. As members of God’s family, we are blessed and kept. God looks upon us with favor and is gracious, giving us His peace.
Take seriously the privilege and power of bearing the holy name of Jesus Christ!
Prayer for Holy Name Day – “Holy God, stir in my heart the love of Jesus, Savior of the world, and the grace of Your Spirit to worthily bear Your name before a watching world. Blessed be God now and forever. Amen.”
*Readings are from the NRSV and the Revised Common Lectionary, Year B