My name is “Christian”

A New Year’s Eve biblical and personal reflection on the Feast of the Holy Name, January 1, 2020


After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb (Luke 2.21)

(c) York Museums Trust; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Following tradition, Mary and Joseph presented their son to be circumcised, to bear on his body the mark of God’s ancient covenant with Abraham, and to be given his name, Jesus. The Greek form of the Hebrew, Joshua, and the Aramaic, Jeshua, meaning, “God saves.”

Thus, the angel Gabriel’s prophetic word to Mary was fulfilled: “You will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus” (Luke 1.31)

The Feast of the Holy Name is my annual, first-of-the-year aide-mémoire of who I am and whose I am. As God’s child, I belong to God as revealed in Jesus and his life of love unconditional for all people.

In this, I am reminded of why, in the Episcopal Church’s practice of the rite of initiation, only the first name of the one to be baptized is spoken; never the surname of one’s earthly family. The reason (I think, historically well known that it went without saying, now, long left unsaid, is not well known)? Baptism confers a new surname of the universal, spiritual, and eternal family into which one is adopted by God through the Spirit: “Christian.”

On October 26, 1952, I was baptized. In a(nother) word, I was christened; named for Christ. The intention being that I, through my life in this world, would bear His name, aye, would be and do as He is and does.

After eight days, Mary and Joseph’s child was circumcised and named Jesus. In this, I hear my calling in this – and in any, every – new year. That my mind and heart, soul and spirit be circumcised. That I allow God’s Spirit daily to cut me to the quick, to cut to the core of myself with an awareness of my name, “Christian,” and its meaning and, thus, the proclamation of my purpose. That I, actively, in word and deed, am to have compassion, to be compassionate with all people.


Illustration: The Circumcision of Christ, Bernardino Luini (1482-1532)

2 thoughts on “My name is “Christian”

  1. This is a great reflection on the New Year Paul!! One of the things that used to surprise me is your recollection of dates, times, people and places. I have no idea the date I was baptized or confirmed but thankfully there are pictures. What I also remember is that I too am a Christian! As most people return to work today, some for the first time in more than a week it’s great to remember that we are Christians. What also struck me though and something I know I needed is to be cut at the quick and reminded to show everyone unconditional love. I was holding on to a lot of hurt and disappointment over my holiday, but I MUST let that go. Life is short so we need to fill it with love and not with hurt. Your words jolted me and I needed that.

    Much love


  2. Ah, yes, my dearest sister, unconditional love, that is, kindly benevolence bestowed on all others in word and deed irrespective of any standard of merit or deserving or, even, reciprocity. And in defining unconditional love in this way, how unconditionally difficult it is to do, especially given that we humans, each and all, are necessarily wedded to our standards of discernment and decision-making based on our perceptions of merit, deserving, or reciprocity! Nevertheless, as the Apostle Paul saith: “We have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us” (2 Corinthians 4.7). The treasure, at least, one way to describe it, is God’s glory. And we mortals are the clay jars. Amazing, isn’t it, that God entrusts divine glory – which we might describe as unconditional love – to us, clay vessels, to be the bearers of it to the world. Now, as clay, we do and will fail. Still, as Paul says, we can’t boast about the power of unconditional love as if we manufacture it, for it “belongs to God and does not come from us.”

    Alright, I know I’m rambling here. Yet I continue to be astonished that God calls us to share divine love. And, yes, though we fail, God still calls and empowers us, via the Spirit, to try again! Glory to God!



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