Holy Name of Jesus, Year A, January 1, 2023
Philippians 2:5-11, Luke 2:15-21
Rev. Misa Furumoto
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all! As the Christmas Day this year fell on a Sunday, the first day of the year happens to be Sunday, too. This Sunday is usually remembered as the First Sunday after Christmas Day, but as January 1 is a big feast of “The Day of Holy Name of Jesus”, today’s readings are chosen for this feast. On this eighth day counting from December 25th, Jesus had the Jewish tradition of circumcision and was named “Jesus”.
So, today we celebrate the naming of Jesus. Do you all know the origin of your name or how you were named? I was named “Misa” when I was born by my father who was an Anglican priest. As you know, “misa” means mass in English and usually used by Roman Catholic Church to mean Holy Eucharist. I guess he gave me this name so that I would live as a Christian all my life and cherish worshipping God. However, when I was little, I disliked this name. Many of my friends and classmates knew that I lived in a church and that was why my name was Misa. Naughty boys always teased me with the name. I blamed my parents on that, and I wished I were named “Lisa” instead of “Misa,” because I thought it sounded more beautiful. Then I decided that when I grew up and had a daughter, I would definitely name her “Lisa”. And that dream came true.
Nevertheless, I feel a kind of divine guidance and a sense of mystery that God has commanded me to celebrate Mass and that I am now a priest.
Speaking of names, there is the baptismal name. This is customary in the Catholic, Orthodox, and Anglican churches; when a person is baptized and given a new life as a child of God, he or she is given a name from the Bible or later Christians so that he or she might live a Christian life following that person from now on.
In ancient Israel, “names” had a special meaning and were even considered to represent the essence of a thing or person. In the Genesis account of the Creation, God creates every animal of the field and every bird of the air and brought them to a man and sees what the man would call each one. And every name that the man called became the name of a living creature. That is to say, the “name” of a thing is its immediate essence.
Then what was Jesus’ name about? The Gospel according to Luke tells us that after eight days of birth, the child was named Jesus. This was the name given to him by the angel Gabriel before he was conceived in Mary’s womb. Jesus is a Greek name of Joshua in Hebrew. The name means “the Lord is salvation”, and was not an uncommon name in Israel at that time. But what name could be more appropriate other than that to describe the one who was born to free all mankind from the chains of sin and return them to God?
We Christians always praise the name of the Lord and pray in Jesus’ name. Each time we say His name, we declare that Jesus Christ is our Lord, the only bridge across the deep gap between God and us, the only salvation. The hope that we Christians have is that everyone on this earth will honor this name of the Lord. Paul writes in his letter to the Philippians. Thus all things, whether in heaven or on earth or under the earth, will bow their knees to the name of Jesus, and every tongue will praise God the Father by publicly proclaiming, Jesus Christ is the Lord.
When this dreamlike day comes, the Kingdom of God will be complete. It will be a world where all people can know their own weaknesses, rely more on God alone, and love one another, following Jesus’ way of life. It is a world where not only human beings, but also animals, nature, and all living things in the world, maintain the perfect harmony created by God and recognize that this world belongs to God.
On this January 1, people all over the world are wishing a Happy New Year with hopes for love and peace. We know the name of the One who brings true peace. With faith, hope, and love given by God firmly in our hearts, let us praise the name of the Lord with all our strength this year and share the good news of Jesus with as many people as possible.