A sincerely Happy New Calendar Year dear readers! May 2021 truly be a different Year of our Lord! Lost in all the revelry (or perhaps a slightly later morning for some of us!), ball drops, Harry Meeting Sally (and yes, I have sat in the same booth to have what she was having!) and Auld Lang Syne is a significant Christian festival derived from Jewish antiquity. Today we celebrate the 1979 Book of Common Prayer re-cast Feast of the Holy Name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Eight days after his birth, Luke tells us his parents had Jesus circumcised like all Jewish parents did for their newborn son, male circumcision being the universally acknowledged physical sign of being Jewish for any observant Jewish man. This feast therefore was historically named the Circumcision of our Lord until those prudish 1960’s liturgical scholars renamed it to soften the graphic nature of the day.
In obedience to the angel Gabriel’s directive, Joseph and Mary name their son Ἰησοῦς in the received Greek text, derived from the Hebrew name יְהוֹשׁוּעַ It is important to me that you see visually what the name of our Lord actually looks like in its original philological (word history) form. The Hebrew name above transliterates Yehoshua, or literally The LORD is Salvation. The Greek name listed first above transliterates Joshua, or Jesus, meaning literally God saves or rescues. Of course you may know Joshua, the amazingly successful leader of the Israelites after Moses whose guerilla tactics help Israel occupy an enduring place in ancient Canaan. He and 4 other biblical personages bear this name alongside our Lord, whose name is repeated an astonishing 1,310 times in the scriptures.
Names are extremely significant in antiquity. They convey both identity and fate for the individual bearing them, which is why famous people are often re-named or re-titled or heaped with multiple titles. The Roman Imperator Octavian becomes Augustus (most revered one) while his sociopathic descendant Gaius is better known by the nickname his father’s soldiers hung on him while Gaius was a small boy in camp (Caligula, Latin for little booties for the tiny legionnaire boots someone fashioned for him). Abram becomesAbraham, Sarai Sarah, Jacob Israel, and so forth. Real bummer to have been the great prophet Isaiah’s second son, named for God’s judgement over an unrepentant Israel; that poor kid was Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz, or quick to the plunder, swift to the spoil! (Honest! Isaiah chapter 8!)
Given how shockingly intimate Jesus teaches us to pray to our Heavenly Father (Abba in the Hebrew variant language of His day, or basically Daddy) in the Lord’s Prayer, and given how often the name of Jesus is invoked in scripture, I marvel at how difficult it is for some to actually utter Jesus’ name out loud except when they curse. I get quite suspicious of those who pray to the Christ or the Human One, the Holy Child of God, and so on. Yes, yes, Jesus is all of those things and so much more, but honestly, do you really speak to your closest intimates using transactional titular language describing their functionality? How many husbands wanting emotive intimacy walk into bedrooms and say, “Hello, the Partner Who I Hope Is About To Fulfill All My Physical And Emotional Needs For Intimacy!” I mean, really?! Even Christos is a Greek title meaning Messiah or Savior, not a name. Today is a Feast celebrating Jesus’ Holy Name. The Apostle Paul teaches that at the Name of Jesus, every knee bends and every mouth confesses that He is Lord. His Name above all names. A Name unleashing God’s unlimited power to rescue, save and redeem us. Why don’t we use it as Jesus wanted us to do?
- When I pray, I always invoke the Name of Jesus as a prayer discipline of reverence, power, healing and love. I pray in Jesus’ Name. Out of my (formidable and creative) cursing language the two names I have never used to curse anyone is God and Jesus Christ. May I humbly suggest that your prayers address Jesus as a beloved intimate, out loud if necessary, using His real Name? How does it feel when you do? From what has Jesus ever rescued you?!
- Consider an interesting personal bible study exploring the various titles of Jesus. How many can you find? Christ, of course, but what about Rabbi? Son of Man? Teacher? Lord? Did anyone ever (hint, hint, not a doubter!) call Jesus God? Son of God? Enjoy the study!
- And please pray with me: 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.