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The Naming of Jesus

Some New Year’s Ponderings

Readings: Numbers 6:22-27; Psalm 67; Gal 4:4-7; Luke 2:15-21

Today we celebrate the naming of Jesus. Drifting into our consciousness somewhere between the Christmas parties and the observance of New Year's Eve, it almost disappears. In the majority of churches it is only when the celebration comes on a Sunday as it does this year that it is even observed. Yet shake your imagination from its lethargy. For the New Year's feast offers us a wonderful opportunity to contemplate the baffling mystery at the center of our faith.

The time has come. The long-promised Messiah has arrived. Redemption has taken place God's salvation is given to us. We are as Paul points out to us, children of God. God has named us. God has adopted us. We have within us the Spirit of God. And all that was accomplished in a very human way. For God truly became one of us.

What is at the heart of Christmas? Is it not the child in the manger? There is deep significance in the season with just that. The world may celebrate the “Holiday Season” without making any reference to the reason for the celebration, and yet the child in the manger brings about something transformative. For a short time a hush settles over the world. People become kinder. They reach out to one another. It is a time of giving. But of course, there is so much more.

“What child is this?” the world asks. And faith answers, “This is God incarnate.” That is the claim of Christmas. What a wonder that is! Not only a human child, but before that a fetus, a floating presence in the womb of a woman. It defies common sense, does it not? It defies practicality. Couldn't God have accomplished the task in a much more interesting way? Perhaps a simpler way? Certainly in a way which would cause people to take note.

But God, who rules existence, came to us in the common, everyday way that any human person gains existence. God was carried for nine months in the space of a woman's body. God was born in an obscure country in the Middle East. God was born into poverty. God lived and died as one of us. God is with us.

And so we hear once again the story of the shepherds listening to the message of the angels. “The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.” It was the shepherds who affirmed Mary's faith. They got her thinking about all that had happened. They got her thinking about the message from the angel, about God's plan for her and for her newborn child, about the mysteries that surrounded this birth. And so Mary ponders. She considers until she gets to the heart of the meaning.

Pondering is a good thing to do when it comes to understanding all that God intends for us. It is for us to ponder things in our heart. Of all the times of the year, New Year's is the most likely time to find people pondering. It is a time to look back and to treasure the things that have made us who we are. It is a time to look back on our spiritual journey and see the path that we have followed in our lives, the path along which Christ has led us. It is a time to set new goals. 

New Year's resolutions should be the result of our pondering. However, most of the time they are simply wishful thinking. We resolve to live our lives in healthier and better ways. We resolve to diet and to exercise. Those are good resolutions to make. They are good resolutions to keep. The problem is that most of the time we keep them for a short time and then lose our resolve. I hope that all of us have good goals in mind for this New Year. But I hope we do not stop there. I hope that the end of the year gives us reason to ponder, to reflect on the mystery that is at the heart of Christmas, to really reflect on all of God’s blessings, on all that God has given to us. I hope it is a time to resolve to be better people, to live our lives more faithfully and more prayerfully, a time to let go of our past mistakes, to ask God’s forgiveness and to move on knowing that God is with us.

And so I have a list of resolutions for this coming year. Perhaps in sharing them it will spur me on to keeping them.

“This year I will listen. I will quiet my mind and take in what other people are saying as they
tell their story. I will listen to their words and to their hearts. I will listen to their body language. I will seek to understand before I seek to answer or contribute.

This year I will keep the storms in perspective. Struggles are going to come but Jesus has promised to be there in the midst of the struggles. I will remember that as I walk with God, God will walk with me. 

This year I will be gentle and compassionate. When I awaken in the morning, I will say to myself, “I am baptised. I have died to sin. This day I intend to do what is right in the sight of God.

This year I will give myself. I will follow the pattern of the life of Christ. I will extend the grace of God. I will forgive others just as God in Christ has forgiven me. I will remember that it is not my job to set everybody straight. I will choose my challenges with prayer and wisdom.

This year I will look for opportunities to encourage a child, to love a stranger, to
do something good for someone I don't like, for someone who doesn't like me.

This year I will be a good student. I will read the newspaper. I will read as many books as possible. I will watch less television. I will be affectionate and daring. I will use my God-given talents. Especially I will watch for answers to prayer and give the glory to God. I will give thanks every day for the love of God.

This year I will eat when I am hungry and stop eating at the first sign of fullness. I will lean into life and be excellent. I will share the good news of God's great grace. This year I will see others as holy, treat others with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience, be forgiving and forgiven, let God's peace rule my heart, and let the word of Christ dwell in me. I will try to live Scripture in my life. I will live as Christ in the world.

As I ponder, I realize that it is so profound as to be almost unbelievable, the consequences of the Christmas event in my life! But I do believe, that it is by God's grace, that I begin a new year. I celebrate this cosmic event and its glorious consequences for my life and the lives of all those who embrace and follow God as revealed through the Christ of Christmas. Amen.

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