Holy Name

Readings—Numbers 6:22-27; Psalm 8; Philippians 2:5-11; Luke 2:15-21

Holy Name Day is the celebration of the circumcision of the child of Mary and Joseph, marking and welcoming him into the People of God of ancient times.  Eight days after birth he is named by his father, “Jesus”, “God saves”. 

In our times it is through baptism that we are marked and welcomed into the People of God.  The officiant asks, “Name this child”.  And the presenters, usually parents and Godparents reply, but without the family name.  In my case, it was, “Paul Clayton”.  The officiant then says,                    

“Paul Clayton, I baptize you in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”  (BCP, p 307) 

After a brief prayer, the officiant traces a cross on the candidate’s forehead, usually with chrism, while saying,                                                                                                                       

“Paul Clayton, you are sealed by the Holy Spirit in baptism and marked as Christ’s own forever.  Amen. 

The newly baptized is then welcomed by the congregation.

Why is the family omitted?  It is because the family name here is liturgically replaced with the new family name, “Christian”, or more specifically, “family of Jesus”.  As a member of the family of Jesus, the newly baptized joins the ministry partnership of “God saves”.  To go a step deeper, the newly baptized joins the ministry of God saves through LOVE. 

God so loved the world that he gave [us] his Son…. (John 3:16)

As the baptized person matures in faith, she/he discovers how to enact that love through her/his own gifts. 

For example, the shepherds.  How did they participate in God’s saving love for the world?  They listened to the angel’s invitation.  Like Mary, they could have said, “No thank you.  We pass.  Please ask someone else.”  Instead, they participated by leaving their flocks; they participated by seeing up close and personal the long-awaited promised Messiah; they participated by sharing what they had witnessed with others, probably for the rest of their lives. 

For example, the particular Psalmist who composed #8.  This Psalmist was especially attuned to the wonders of creation.

…the works of [God’s] hand…the birds of the air, the fish of the sea, and whatsoever walks on the paths of the sea…

This Psalmist praised God for the wonders, and experienced a call to partner with God, and take responsibility for their welfare.

For example, the author of the Letter to the Philippians.  In describing the humility of Jesus who “emptied himself, taking the form of a servant”, the author was drawn to partner, and to be of “the same mind” and humbly serve. 

In our readings today we find three examples of people of God living into their individual partnerships with God in lovingly saving the world. 

So, it is to be for each one of us, especially as we reflect on this beginning of a new year, to reimagine how we may best do our part to live our baptism to lovingly save the world.  As our circumstances change, so we recalibrate our loving partnership. 

God so loved the world that he sent Jesus.

As we begin our new year with God, may we reflect and recalibrate how we can do our part in saving the world through love. 


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