“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
On this eighth day of Christmas we again celebrate the truth that God has entered time and has chosen to participate in human history. The feast we recall today honors Jesus’ naming and circumcision on the eighth day in accord with Jewish custom.
I once was visiting the nursery of a local hospital to see for myself the newborn child of one of the clergy families. I wanted to be an eyewitness. After a short visit with the parents and the delight of holding the baby close and feeling his warmth against my neck, I offered God thanks for his birth and using his name gave him a blessing in anticipation of a yet-to-be baptism. Joy was all about us.
A nurse was close at hand and asked to see me as I was leaving. She said there was a child on the unit who had been abandoned and wondered if I would give him a blessing too. Although precious and known to God, he was the anonymous “John Doe” to the rest of us. We went to the crib and as she held the robust infant in her arms I cried a prayer of thanksgiving for his birth too and could have baptized him with my tears. I remember thinking he was connected to no family and therefore had no history of which I or anyone knew. I found myself fantasizing that before long the child would be adopted by a family who would delight in his wriggling newness and give him a name. The news would go out to family and friends and that new-born little person, now with a name bestowed, would have a relationship to that family forever.
A radical change occurs when a baby is given a place within a network of relationships. Naming is a symbol of that reality. People can have the same name, even as many were named Jesus in his day, but the name is unique to each person because of the network of relationships within which the name is given and lived out. All genetic predispositions aside, I am who I am because of my parents Gladstone, Jr. and Evelyn, my sisters Lorrie and Jeannette, and generations before us. This family shaped me.
It is the same for Jesus born among Joseph, Mary, cousin John, Uncle Zechariah and Aunt Elizabeth, and many others. Think Matthean genealogies here. In his naming, God entrusted Jesus to ordinary human beings to be shaped, molded, formed and nurtured in faith. God trusts us and in Jesus’ naming God has honored all humanity, including you and your very own.
Carry the name of Jesus with you. Say it often. In his name your name is given worth and recognition as a child of God.