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St. Paul’s – Holy Name of Jesus- 1/1/23

When I was in college, I had a summer job. There was a swampy area North of Chicago. I was on a crew who was responsible for turning the area into what is now the Chicago Botanic Gardens. Each of us on the crew has names we were called other than our own birth name. Mine was Mungo. Another person was called Salty and another Jumbo, and another Doo Doo and so on.

Names are more than just labels. In some way names capture and express the essence of the person. They reveal qualities and characteristics. Try these out. See what they reveal.

  • GOAT
  • Honest Abe
  • Mother Teresa
  • BaBa Wawa
  • Gandhi
  • Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • Donald Trump
  • john F. Kennedy

These names are about a life and a way of being. Within these names are particular actions, values, and beliefs of the person. Sometimes names reveal experiences andrelationships. Think about these names: Papa, Darling, Sweetie pie. Nana. Within these names are a relationship of love and the experiences of people within a family.

Names can identify and reveal our personhood. That’s why it sometimes hurts when we are anonymous and our name forgotten. That’s why we also sometimes prefer and hide in anonymity. Names disclose who we are, how we are, where we come from, where we are going. That seems to be at least one of the purposes of all the genealogies in holy scripture.

God uses names and name changes to establishrelationship, identity, and belonging. Think about God inviting Adam to name the animals and then giving Adam dominion over creation. Adam named Eve for having come from his side. Moses was so named because he was drawn from the water. Abram and Sarai were renamed Abraham and Sarah for their new relationship to God. Jacob wrestled the angel and was named Israel. Saul’s life was transformed and he became Paul.

I wonder what is God’s name for you? Some of us so long have carried the burden of names like Not-good-enough, Lost, Complicated One, Alone. Hear me, hear the Scriptures, God is in the business of changing names. Maybe The Lord is giving you a new name on this beginning of a new year. I believe God has a name for you. I hope you will claim it.

Today, January 1, the world is concerned about a new year, resolutions, football, and black-eyed peas. The Church, however, is focused on a name, Jesus. It is the name that reveals God’s life and purpose, claims us as God’s people, and changes our lives. Today is the fulfillment of Gabriel’s annunciation to Mary. Everything the Archangel said would happen has now happened.

Some of the church gathered on March 25, nine months and eight days ago, to celebrate the Feast of the Annunciation. Gabriel came to Mary announcing that she would conceive in her womb, she would give birth to a son, and she would name him Jesus. And so it was. She conceived. Nine months to the day later, December 25, we gathered with joy to greet the newborn child.

Today, eight days  after the birth, we gather to hear the name given him by the angel before he was conceived in the womb, Jesus. Jesus. Yeshua in Hebrew. It means the Lord saves, salvation. Within the name is Jesus’ vocation, a relationship to humanity, and a desire of God. The name Jesus says that God cares about us; God knows what is happening to and with us; God is not indifferent; God is present, acting in the world and in our lives; and that God loves us. Jesus. Jesus. Jesus. The name is, contains, andreveals the fullness of God’s life, love, and longing.

So maybe we ought to consider our relationship to the name Jesus. When do we say that name? Where? How often? Under what circumstances? In whose company? Is it only a name we read in the Bible? A name we speak only in church? How have we misused or even desecrated the name? Do we say it as our prayer? What do we believe about that name, Jesus?

What’s in a name? Juliet asks Romeo.
That which we call a rose,
by any other name would smell as sweet.

Is she really correct? I think she has mistaken a name for a label. What if you said the word rose and you were filled with its fragrance? I don’t mean you remembered what a rose smelled like but you actually smelled the rose. What if every time you said the name rose you were immersed in a garden of life, beauty, and color? What if every time you said the name rose you could actually feel the softness of its petals? I suspect you would not want to call it anything but a rose and you would never cease calling, rose.

That is how the Holy Name of Jesus works.Take a few moments right now and say the name Jesus over and over like a Taize chant….…. Let that holy name fill our every thought, echo through our every word, occupy our heart, guide and direct our every step. We take that name into every circumstance of our life, into every relationship we have, to everything we do, to all whom we meet. Let it begin, fill, and end our day. Jesus before us. Jesus behind us. Jesus beside us. Jesus above us. Jesus below us. Jesus around us. Jesus within us. The name Jesus is our unceasing prayer. All that needs to be said is said in that one name.

Every time we say Jesus, we claim God’s salvation. Every time we say Jesus, we acknowledge our need of God and salvation. Every time we say Jesus, we open ourselves to God’s mercy, forgiveness, and healing. Every time we say Jesus, we remember that God is with us. Every time we say Jesus, we renew our relationship with him. Every time we say Jesus, his response is always the same, Here I am.

The Name of Jesus – Dan Bollerod

Sally, Joe, Abdul, Rebecca and Juan

all names

all given to the ones new born

on their day


that in time invoke an image

of who they are

and what they have done

in this world


that speak of love

—————– hate

—————– worry and fear

Names that speak of a promise spoken

I will be your God

and you will be my people

Names like any other names

yet special

because of who they speak of

before time

one name was given

a name of love

a name of change

a name of hope

and at the sound of this name every knee shall bow

that name


like another name


it changed who we


the Sallys, Joes, Abduls, Rebeccas and Juans

of this world

will forever be,

the children of God


Lord Jesus Christ,

your name is proclaimed in all the earth.
You were God almighty yet you made yourself nothing
You came as a vulnerable child to live amongst us.
You were God all powerful
Yet you came as a humble servant
You were faithful as a son,
You went through death so that we might find life
Your blood was shed so that we could be redeemed
Your body was broken so that we might be made whole
Therefore God has exalted you

and given you the name above all names
So that one day all peoples will proclaim you
As Jesus Christ the Lord