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What's in a Name?
January 1, 2023, 1:00 AM

The Holy Name of Jesus

All names are powerful, but Jesus’ name is the most powerful of all. We use names as a concise way to convey complex meanings: being able to call someone by name means you know something important about that person, and being called by name means you are known. On this day we celebrate the privilege and the power of calling God by name, as well as how deeply we know God and are known by God, through Jesus.

Our texts for today affirm the power of the name we’re given at baptism: child of God. The name of God is described in active terms: being blessed and claimed in the name of God does something to us. It ennobles and empowers us in ways we do not deserve and did nothing to earn (Ps. 8, Num. 6:27). The name of Jesus itself is described as being a powerful actor in our world and in our lives: “at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:10-11).

Our gospel reading from Luke finds the holy family in the midst of the ongoing extraordinary events of Jesus’ birth. When the shepherds leave and the angels return to heaven, we can see a shift toward the ordinary. Luke records that Mary and Joseph made sure that Jesus went through the usual rites of passage for a Jewish boy; years pass between these milestones, unrecorded. But in his ordinary, everyday life, Jesus carried an extraordinary name. We carry the name of Jesus and the mark of his cross not only in extraordinary times, but in our ordinary, everyday lives. It’s a name that is active and powerful in us and through us each day.