A New Name – 1 January 2017

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Numbers 6: 22 – 27

The Priestly Benediction
22 The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 23Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the Israelites: You shall say to them,
24 The Lord bless you and keep you;
25 the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;
26 the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.
27 So they shall put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.

Galatians 4: 4 – 7

4But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. 6And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our* hearts, crying, ‘Abba!* Father!’ 7So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.

Luke 2: 15 – 21

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.’ 16So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. 17When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. 20The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

Jesus Is Named
21 After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

Some people will be glad to see the back of 2016. This year has been blamed for all sorts of things. One man was heard to say that he was going to change everything in 2017, including his name. I hope that works for him.

In the Old Testament we learn that the name of a child is very important. The name was believed to influence the child’s character and personality, even its destiny.

Therefore when God made his covenant with Abram, he changed his name to Abraham because it fitted the life God had in mind for him better.

And when God teamed up with Abraham he gave him a ceremony to follow. On the 8th day of their life every male was to be circumcised as a sign of their dedication to God.

The angel Gabriel, when speaking to Mary, told her that her son was to be named Jesus, which means, the Lord saves.  That naming ceremony was to happen 8 days after his birth and be accompanied by the rite of circumcision.

Jesus came to save us. His life’s mission is encapsulated in his name. So from a biblical point of view a name is associated with what one does.

In Rev 2: 17 we are told, To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.

The person who has been victorious, who has remained faithful will be rewarded with a new name. It is a recognition of what she or he has done.

However a name is also associated with what one is, and often that is associated with another aspect of a name: it tells people who you are related to.

In Rev 3: 12 in the final part of the verse, we read, and I will also write on them my new name. This is something different. When God says he will write his new name upon us, he is indicating our citizenship of the Kingdom of God, which in Revelation, is depicted as the new heaven come down to the new earth, a place where God rules.

When God’s name is written upon us it is associated with God’s character, who were are.  And what we are can only be changed for the better by God.

These two things:

  • A special name as a reward for what we have done,
  • and God’s name as a marker of who God has made us.

The first, in theory, we can earn. The second can never be earned. It is pure grace; God’s undeserved gift to us.

In practice we experience these things the other way round:

  • grace comes first – God’s unconditional saving love – something we can never earn.
  • It is that grace that influences what we do and it is associated with our gratitude to God for what God has done in the first place.

A new year is an opportunity to reflect on God’s goodness to us in the past. It is also a time to resolve – to make that very effective New Year resolution – to open ourselves to God’s powerful grace.

May God’s grace have us ever spellbound by his love, and may it move us to act in gratitude and so live up to the name, Christian.