Holy Name Day
‘Come here Geoffrey!’ Someone shouted that to their child in the supermarket the other day and I jumped! They weren’t talking to me, but I jumped when I heard my name. When someone uses your name, you notice; it’s a sign that they know us. When they use our first name, our given name, it means a degree of intimacy.
Today is the first day of a New Year – the Year of our Lord 2021, and we celebrate the Holy Name of Jesus. We give thanks that through Jesus we have been given the gift of intimacy with God. St Paul tells us that, ‘God has sent the Spirit of his son Jesus into our hearts, crying Abba, Father.’ We have the wonderful privilege as Christians of being able to pray to our Father with the same closeness and intimacy which Jesus has with his Father – to make our prayer ‘in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.’
Throughout Scripture, God’s use of names is very important, and part of God’s act of creation. In the account of creation in Genesis, whenever God calls each part of creation into being he calls it by a name.: ‘He called the light day, the darkness night.’ But God goes on creating right through the pages of Scripture. Most notably he takes men and women and carries on creating them throughout their lives. God enters a person’s life and draws gifts and qualities out of them which they could hardly have dreamt of, and as a sign of this he calls them by a new name. God calls Abram and makes a covenant with him. He will be the father of a multitude of nations, and will be called ‘Abra-ham’, which means ‘father of a multitude.’ Jacob wrestles with an angel all night long, and in the morning the angel blesses him and says, ‘You have striven with God and prevailed – you shall now be called ‘Israel’. The name ‘Isra-el’ means ‘striven with God’, and the word ‘El’ means ‘God’. So, Jacob actually receives the name of God into his new name. What an extraordinary act of intimacy.
1 John 2:18-21
On this last day of the current year we can look back over the year now coming to an end. We can repent of our failures, and we give thanks for our blessings.
As we look forward to the New Year about to begin we can expect challenges. We should look with courage and hope, and we give thanks for rewards.
Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Winston Churchill was reprimanded at one point by Lady Astor for ending a sentence with a preposition. Churchill responded, “This is the kind of thing up with which I will not put.”[i] Well, I’m thinking here about endings, lots of things coming to an unexpected end in our world and in our nation, some of it surprising, or relieving, or galvanizing, or frightening. And this coincides with the church year having just ended. Today, the first Sunday of Advent, marks the beginning of the new year for the church, Advent being observed the four Sundays prior to Christmas.