a biblical reflection, based on Luke 2.15-21, on the 8th day of Christmas and the 1st day of the new year
After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus.
Luke continues his telling of the Christmas story. In Bethlehem, Mary gave birth to her firstborn son, wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger. Eight days later, following Jewish custom and ceremony, the identity of that son was conferred. He was circumcised, bearing on his body the mark of God’s ancient covenant with Abraham, the outward and visible sign that he was a member of a people. He also was given his name, the outward and hearable sign of his life’s purpose. Jesus. The Greek form of the Hebrew Joshua and the Aramaic Jeshua, meaning “God is salvation” or, simply, “God saves.”
On many Christian calendars, this eighth day of Christmas and this New Year’s Day is called Holy Name. Doubtless, countless are the interpretations of what this day means. So, speaking always only for myself…
Holy Name reminds me who I am, one created by God, and, therefore, whose I am, one belonging to God. The God made known to me in Jesus’ prophetic life of love and justice. A life of compassion for the poor, care for the downtrodden, comfort for the afflicted, and challenge to the comfortable (especially when it is I myself whom I must confront!) to act on behalf of the marginalized and disenfranchised. A life I am bidden not only to worship, to reverence, but also to follow, to continue. A life, as Jesus is, so I, in his name, am to be in the world.
I’ve claimed the name “Christian” for most of my life. Given what it meant originally, to be named as Christ to a life of service, it still serves well. Yet given the bigotry and brutality, the intolerance and malice perpetrated in the name of Jesus by myriad Christians from the first century unto this day the name for many evokes fear and anger, provokes division and derision. Thus, in this coming year, it is up to me, with God’s help, as best I can, as much as I can, where I am, and with those I serve to follow in will and word and deed the Jesus of justice, the Lord of love and liberation. For “Christian” is my name.
Illustration: The Circumcision of Jesus, Peter Paul Rubens, 1605