Today is the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus, a feast that gets kind of lost, unless you happen to use a Church Kalendar (available on the table in the back of the church). Jesus, like all little Jewish babies, even today, was presented to God, circumcised and given a name. For Jesus, this ceremony took place in the temple, where he was recognized by Simeon and Anna as the salvation of the Jewish people. In the 1928 Prayer Book, this was called the Feast of the Circumcision, the emphasis being on the Jewishness of Jesus. By calling it the Feast of the Holy Name, we might think of the emphasis as being more on the divinity of Jesus.
So, what is the big deal about a name? In the Jewish tradition, God’s name is never even pronounced. Wherever it is written in the scriptures, it has traditionally been supplanted with Adonai, meaning Lord. God is often referred to as The Name to avoid saying it. In some cultures, a baby is given a name which only he/she knows and various nicknames are used in lieu of The Name. We have become so prosaic in just about everything, that we have lost that sense of awe, that our names are our essence, that they mean something about us, and are not just a label. Even though today we usually announce a baby’s name while still in the hospital, as Christians we announce the name formally at the child’s baptism.
The first of January is an appropriate time to celebrate Jesus’ naming ceremony. It is the eighth day of Christmas and the eighth day was traditionally the time of the presentation of a baby, and for us it is the beginning of a new year, a time to make resolutions, turn over a new leaf.
As a parish we are beginning a new era with a new priest. Amber has been moving into the rectory, getting settled into her new home. We are giving her a few days to be alone before beginning her new ministry on 9 January. Please plan on coming to church on 10 January to meet her. After the 10:30 service we will have a joint coffee hour in Seccombe Hall with St. John’s Greek Orthodox congregation, when we will also celebrate the christening of Gwynn Romano’s granddaughter.
While making your new year’s resolutions and considering the different aspects of your life that you mean to improve, think about your spiritual life. What resolutions might the spirit be leading you towards? Coming to church regularly? Making a pledge to assist your parish in its mission? Praying daily? Volunteering on one of the many committees and commissions? Ushering at your regular service for a year? Becoming a licensed Eucharistic visitor? Helping with coffee hour? Serving on the vestry? Joining the choir? Participating in a small group?
A vibrant parish is the sum total of its parts. As we severally commit ourselves to an active role in parish life, we will collectively grow not only in numbers but in vibrancy and enthusiasm and individually we will grow in spirituality.
I wish you a happy and blessed 2016.
Claudia Ward, Senior Warden
All Saints’ Episcopal Church