January 1

On New Year’s Day, a meditation on The Feast of the Holy Name

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After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus (Luke 2.21a)

In Bethlehem, Mary gave birth to her firstborn son. Eight days later, following Jewish custom, he was circumcised; bearing on his body the mark of God’s ancient covenant with Abraham. The outward, visible sign that he was a Jew, a member of a people. And he was given his name. The outward, hearable sign of his role-to-be in the life of his people. Jesus,[1] meaning, “God is salvation.”

The Feast of the Holy Name, coming on the calendar year’s first day, reminds me that I, as a Christian, live by, for, in, of, through, and with (I know that something is true for me when every preposition works!) the name of Jesus.

Some years ago, I was privileged to spend time with the Rev. Dr. James Alexander Forbes, Jr.[2] During conversation, he recounted that once he decided on a medical career, he began to experience a persistent call to ordained ministry. At a moment of quiet reflection, a name came to mind. Archippus.[3] As a Pentecostal Christian, Dr. Forbes, no stranger to or skeptic of signs and wonders, considered this a divine revelation. He adopted Archippus as his spiritual middle name to remind him to continue the labor of love and justice of Jesus, who inaugurated his ministry, saying: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, anointing me to proclaim good news to the poor, release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, and freedom to the oppressed.”[4]

As I reflect, long have I answered to the name “Christian.” Given its original meaning to be named in Christ’s service, it still serves well. However, given the intolerance and malice perpetrated by Jesus’ followers, beginning in the first century and continuing, “Christian,” for many, bears connotations other than love and justice.

As I go forward in this new year, I reclaim my calling to demonstrate to all the meaning of that principal name by, for, in, of, through, and with which I live: Jesus.

© 2022 PRA


[1] The Greek form of the Hebrew, Joshua, and the Aramaic, Jeshua.

[2] The Rev. Dr. James Alexander Forbes, Jr. (1935- ), Senior Minister Emeritus of the Riverside Church, New York City, and an internationally renowned preacher.

[3] The Apostle Paul, in his Letter to Philemon, enlists the aid of Archippus, a fellow follower of Jesus, in appealing to Philemon to free his slave Onesimus.

[4] Luke 4.18 (referencing Isaiah 61.1)

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