The Holy Name and New Year
By Rev. Canon David B. Tabo-oy
A week later, when the time came for the baby to be circumcised, he was named Jesus, the name which the angel had given him before he had been conceived. (Read: Luke 2:15-21)
This Saturday marks two special occasions in both secular and church liturgical calendars. It is the first day of the New Year 2021. In the Anglican/Episcopal tradition January 1 is also the feast of the Holy Name of Jesus earlier known as the feast of the Circumcision of Christ. The mention of circumcision sounded a bit embarrassing; perhaps made us blush. Now we call New Year’s Day the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus. St. Luke records in the verse chosen for today that when the child of Mary and Joseph was taken to be circumcised, he was given the name Jesus. Certainly to the first-century Jew in Palestine there was nothing earth-shaking about the name. Many male children were given the name Joshua/Jesus, which means “God with us.” Today in Filipino culture, Jesus (Hesus) is a fairly common name to give to a baby.
But the correct prayer for this feast found at the end of this article states that the name of Jesus is the “sign of our salvation.” The old canons in the Anglican tradition required that we bow our heads at the name of Jesus. In the succeeding verses of our Gospel reading today, two old people, Ana and Simeon, rejoiced to see the young child. Simeon exclaims that “these eyes of mine have seen the Savior.”
What’s in a name? According to one Episcopalian preacher, the Very Rev. Anthony Clavier, that ‘in our quest for authenticity we often discount the symbolic. We fear that the symbol may be emptied of reality, become something we just say or do without meaning what we say or do. We set a dreadfully high standard. Yet the truth is that saying and doing things, even by rote, may be reminders to us of the meaning they explore and symbolize. Telling our spouse that we love him or her may be an automatic response, but at times we live into its deepest meaning. Even though we may use “Jesus” as an expletive, the meaning of who Jesus is may and often does communicate itself anew by our mindless utterance. There is power in a name and in a symbol.Fr Clavier further posited: “Jesus is ‘God with us.’ He is “The Savior.” And that means that we belong to Jesus. It does not mean that he belongs to us. That’s an important point to understand. It is so easy for us to decide who Jesus should love or save and who he should not. However, he told us that such matters are none of our business. And that is that’.***We were named and signed in our baptisms. In baptism we were claimed, adopted, forgiven, and made members of the priestly body, the Body of Christ. We too are here to be God for others. In other words, people have a right to demand that God is seen in us, as individuals, as members of a church and of the Church. And as God is seen in the face of Jesus Christ, we are called to be Christ-like, or Christians. In the midst of church struggles, divisions, and fights, “God help us,” we exclaim. And that is the point. God helps us, seeks us, finds us, and particularly at the Eucharistic table that we face today, the Name of Jesus, the Word, conjoins with Bread and Wine and transforms us into newness of life.***It is the time of the year again. New Year’s resolution-making time! Whether the resolution made last year were fulfilled or ended only on paper, it is best that we revisit them in order to know where we are even as we take on the new challenges of the new normal. Here’s some suggestions how we can live through the new year of 2021. I forgot where I got this material but it was part of one of my New Year’s homily manuscripts preached years ago.***7 UP’s of New Year:The first is WAKE UP—Begin the day with the Lord. It is His day. Rejoice init. The second is DRESS-UP—Put on a smile. It improves your looks. It sayssomething about your attitude. The third is SHUT-UP—Watch your tongue. Don’t gossip. Say nice things. Learn to listen. The fourth is STAND-UP—Take a stand for what you believe. Resist evil. Do good. Five, LOOK-UP—Open your eyes to the Lord. After all, He is your only Savior. Six, REACH-UP—Spend time in prayer with your adorations, confessions, thanksgivings and supplications to the Lord. And finally, LIFT-UP—Be available to help those in need—serving, supporting, and sharing.Let us pray.Eternal Father, you gave to your incarnate Son the Holy Name of Jesus to be the sign of our salvation: Plant in every heart, we pray, the love of him who is the Savior of the world, our Lord Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.**