The first day of January has been a Feast Day in the liturgical calendar of the church since at least the sixth century. January 1 marks eight days after the birth of Jesus, at least according to the church calendar. (No biblical scholar seriously argues that these are the exact dates.) But on this feast day the church remembers that it was on this day that Luke 2:21 was fulfilled. Luke says that when it was time to circumcise the child he was given the name Jesus. Jewish tradition was honored and kept by the holy family in all ways.
This all seems a bit odd to us living in America since naming means very little in our culture. We more often than not name a child based upon the name's use in popular culture, or what names are "in" at the time of the child's birth. Rarely do parents name their children on the basis of what the name means for the child as we pray for their life and future faithfulness to God. But there truly is power in naming something or someone. Consider how nicknames are given and used in our culture. Some people are only known by these names. And consider the problem of identity theft in our present time. With your name and social security number someone can gain particular power over you with your name.
The Jewish people had several names for God. Ultimately God was revealed to Moses as "THE NAME." His name was so holy that it was not pronounced. We put vowels in between the consonants, thus getting the name Yahweh, or the more familiar Jehovah. Orthodox Jews, to this very day, will not pronounce the name, using Lord in place of the name of God. Or they use the Hebrew word Hashem, the word for name. (This raises particular questions, at least to my mind, with regard to the popular use of Yahweh, which is increasing in recent years. I hear it all the time and still believe there is a serious problem in using it in the way that we do!)
For Christians the name of God was given on the first day of the year: Jesus. If you ask an orthodox Christian for the name of God the right answer is Jesus—the name of the personal God of love who saves! Literally, Jesus means "God saves." This is why he came according to Luke 17:10.
Jesus said "Before Abraham was, I am." He is YHWH. Jesus is very God of very God. This feast day reminds us that we know God in the final revelation of his being, given to us in the person of Jesus of Nazareth.
Because I worshiped in a liturgical setting this weekend I was taken into the importance of this NAME in a refreshing and theological way. From the birth, to the naming, to the cross and then to the resurrection, I was taken to the ever living one, Jesus the Lord of heaven and earth. What a wonder to worship God, the true God, in the person of his only begotten Son. This is one of many reasons why I love the liturgical calendar with every passing year of my life.
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