Good morning! A special shout out HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Robbie! Celebrate dear one!
Luke 1: 59-66
On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him Zechariah after his father. But his mother said, ‘No; he is to be called John.’ They said to her, ‘None of your relatives has this name.’ Then they began motioning to his father to find out what name he wanted to give him. He asked for a writing-tablet and wrote, ‘His name is John.’ And all of them were amazed. Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue freed, and he began to speak, praising God. Fear came over all their neighbors, and all these things were talked about throughout the entire hill country of Judea. All who heard them pondered them and said, ‘What then will this child become?’ For, indeed, the hand of the Lord was with him.
There is something about naming. In taking on a name we take on who we identify as. I am preparing to baptize little Zander Park this Sunday and as I was looking over the ceremony of baptism for worship I realized the first thing we ask the parents is, “What name is given to this child?” What struck me is that we give, as a gift a name to a child when we bring them into the world. And then again, as we bring them into God’s community we name them again or regift their name. In the Jewish tradition, this is a super important piece of life. In fact there is a whole ceremony dedicated to just naming. The community gathers around the child to give them a name, to claim them, identify them, and recognize them.
This naming is what we connect to all of our lives. Those that I have known that are transgendered tell me that finding the perfect name is pretty huge. The name is important for identity and feeling as though this is real and transformative. Could you imagine renaming yourself? For some the name just doesn’t fit and so they look towards which name represents who someone is.
I remember growing up and being pretty proud of my nicknames from my parents. My dad called me a nickname that I would say was his first. We would talk about who was this nickname back and forth. It was something I held on to. My mom, in true spanish teacher fashion, has always called me ‘cortina.’ I was pretty proud of this nickname. I felt really good about it until I learned sitting in Spanish class that my nickname meant ‘curtain.’ I came home pretty incredulous. “You have called me curtain all my life????” I had to decide whether to abandon the nickname or reclaim it. It has become useful in my reclaiming. When I lived in Chicago and worked in Humboldt Park, the youth I worked with thought it was hilarious to call me Cortina and now they just do as if it is the most natural thing.
My brothers all have nicknames too that I call them without reservation and rethink in public places. But I still do call them nicknames because it connects me to them. It claims that we have a history and a relationship. This is why I think it’s so important to learn someone’s name as soon as possible. If you can call someone by name, it means you can relate to that person. No longer is that person an Other but that person has a name, a connection.
When my friends and family have babies, the name is so important in how this baby will grow and be identified. I met up with my cousins yesterday. I try to meet up for coffee when I come through to hang out with Jessica and the three kids. Yesterday when we had coffee the youngest (who is not even a year old yet) was putting everything in mouth and reaching for things and being a typical 8 month old. His name is Bodhi…which encompasses a peaceful spiritual nature. I reminded him of that….and while that didn’t seem to make a difference at that moment in time, I am guessing it will come into play in his lifetime. He has been marked with this name.
God has known that names are key. It is no coincidence that especially in Luke naming is an important factor to the Christ story. Elizabeth is told what her child will be named and Mary is told what her child will be named. It makes a difference. In the naming of John, which people are perplexed about since it is not a family name, Elizabeth fulfills what God is telling her will be the name of the one who cries out in preparation. Zechariah regains his voice with this naming moment. In the naming of Jesus, we are assured that God is with us in the form of this child. That is no small feat. Over and over again, names are important.
What does your name mean to you? How have names been a part of your life? How will they be a part of recognizing others during the season?
Prayer: O God, thank you for my name. May it mark who I am and who I yearn to be as a child of you and a part of this community. May I recognize others by name to see you more clearly today. Amen.