A biblical and personal reflection for the Feast of the Holy Name, January 1, 2019
After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus(1)
In Bethlehem, Mary had given birth to her firstborn son, had wrapped him in bands of cloth, and had laid him in a manger. Eight days later, following Jewish custom, the identity of that son was conferred. He was circumcised, bearing on his body the mark of God’s ancient covenant with Abraham, the outward and visible sign that he was a Jew, a member of a people and given his name, the outward and hearable sign of his life’s purpose, the role that he would play in the world on behalf of his people. His name. Jesus. The Greek form of the Hebrew, Joshua, and the Aramaic, Jeshua, meaning, “God is salvation” or, simply, “God saves.”
Coming on the first day of the calendar year, this Feast of the Holy Name reminds me, as a Christian, who I am and whose I am. I belong to God, as God is made known in Jesus’ prophetic life of justice and love…
Jesus’ life of compassion for all afflicted by difficult circumstances, nature-and-human-made and of challenge to the comfortable to act on behalf of the afflicted; even and especially when the face of that comfortable one I must challenge is reflected in my mirror…
Jesus’ life I am bidden not so much to worship, as in Jesus has done it all, so let me (thank you kindly, Jesus!) sit back and adore him, but rather, to follow, to continue. As he was and is, so I, in his name, am to be in the world.
As I look back, reflecting over the previous 66½ years of my life, I see clearly, very clearly, all too clearly that I know how to live by my name. I know how, in the words of the prayer, to “follow the devices and desires of my heart,” to abide by my own way and will, to tend to the garden of my (oft selfish) self-interest. So well-practiced at this, I am a professional self-seeker.
As I enter 2019, this is (not my resolution for this coming year, but rather) my prayer for the rest of my life (for as long as it lasts): Jesus, may I, by Your Spirit, live by Your Holy Name. Amen.
(1) Luke 2.21
Illustration: Circumcision of Jesus (1503), Mariotto Albertinelli (1474-1515)