Thursday, January 1, 2009

Holy Name Day

Genesis 17:1-2, 15-16
v. 5 No longer shall your name be Abram [exalted ancestor], but your name shall be Abraham [ancestor of a multitude], for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations.

Holy Name Day, the 8th Day of Christmas, celebrates the traditional day on which Jesus would have been circumcised and named by Jewish custom. His Hebrew name is Yeshua (Joshua in English). "Jesus" comes from the Greek version of Yeshua. The name means "The Lord is salvation," or "God saves."

Names are extremely important in the Bible, and particularly in the Hebrew Bible what those names mean ae important, for they are often contracted Hebrew phrases or sentences. Occasionally, like Abram and Sarai, new names are given at an especially important moment in the person's life. For Abram and Sarai this was the moment when the promise that they would have a child would finally come true. Other well-known biblical name changes are Jacob to Israel and, in the New Testament, Simon to Peter, and Saul to Paul.

Many of our names mean something as well, perhaps not for what they literally mean but for how they were acquired. Sometimes these two things don't have anything to do with one another. For instance, I was named "Michael" because thousands of children were named "Michael" in 1961 (there were three of us in my high school classof 42). My parents had no idea that they were naming me a Hebrew name that means, "One who is like God," (a meaning I try not to take too seriously--I like to think of it more as a challenging question--Who is like God?).

I am always comforted that we remember the name of Jesus on this New Year's Day. it means to me that come what may this year (and much will come completely out of my control), it will remain true that "God saves."

Happy New Year! God saves! That is your highest and true name.

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