The Naming of Jesus; Beginnings and Connections
In God’s good creation, there is always something beginning and something ending. Something to tell, something to hear. I learnt something about the importance of beginnings and connections long ago, in the 1970s, when I emigrated from England to Australia.
I spent two years travelling and working around the vast country. After two years, I decided to return home to England. It was a tame adventure by today’s standards, but trailblazing at the time!
Correspondence with my family was through airmail letters during those two years. This was the only way of communicating because the phone and internet systems still needed to develop into what we have today.
Then, after a year in Australia, I felt that I really wanted to talk directly with my family. So I arranged a person-to-person trunk call which was planned and managed by specialist switchboard operators. It had to be booked weeks in advance and cost me a small fortune, but it was well worth it.
We conversed over a complicated network of telephone connections from Australia to England and back again. This was the only proper conversation we had in two years. It was a surreal experience that I will never forget.
Fast forward to the 2020s, and we connect with people worldwide at a moment’s notice via the internet and digital phones. We have immediate access to so many things – but I often wonder, aside from the obvious practical benefits, if we make the best use of these new connections available today.
Connections in Biblical Times
God spoke to his chosen people, the Israelites, through prophets in the Old Testament. He promised the prophet Abraham that he would be a great nation, his descendants would outnumber the stars in the sky, and that his offspring and all humankind would be blessed through him.
That promise was fulfilled in the birth of Jesus, but through his ministry, he instructed the Jewish people to end their old ways and begin a new way of worshipping God.
The Christmas story is full of subtle and sensational communications as the Angel Gabriel and hosts of heavenly angels connected with the world to foretell and celebrate a new beginning.
The Wise Men, far away in the east, saw a message in the skies, which made them quickly head off west, looking for the one they were searching the skies for; Jesus.
When Jesus Began His Life on Earth
When Jesus was eight days old, his faithful Jewish parents arranged for a circumcision and naming ritual. This was essential for Jesus to begin his life as a member of the Jewish faith.
For the Israelites, circumcision was about connecting with the broader family of Israel and becoming an heir of God’s promise to Abraham.
Abraham’s promise and faith were fulfilled in Jesus. Today, our faith is in the understanding that Jesus has made all things between heaven and earth right through his birth, death and resurrection.
What Does This Mean for us Today?
Life is a series of starts and endings and connections and disconnections, both good and bad.
In God’s plan for our individual lives, unfortunately, these things often don’t work out how we would like them to. This is because he works out our new beginnings and connections in his own time. St Peter said it so well with these words, ‘With the Lord, a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day’.
We all have times when it feels that nothing is happening, but these are the times when small imperceptible shifts are being made in our lives. Then suddenly, something happens. New beginnings germinate, along with new hope in the overall goodness of life. An old connection is lost, but like the birth of baby Jesus, a new connection is born.
As Jesus began his time on earth, he was named and circumcised as a Jewish baby and fulfilled ancient Old Testament law on our behalf. His sacrifice on the cross means there is no requirement for circumcision today. What is needed now is a circumcision of our hearts (a purity of our hearts) to bring us into the promise God made to Abraham many centuries ago.
As we start this new year, we can expect to experience times of hope and times of fear. We know we will need to wait patiently for new beginnings and connections to happen.
But when we surrender our hopes and fears to Jesus, we free our time to enjoy the day-to-day moments God puts before us and spend more time connecting with the people we love.
I would like to conclude these thoughts with a prayer for the new year before us:
May the Lord bless us and keep us;
May the Lord make his face shine on us and be gracious to us;
May the Lord turn his face toward us and give us peace.