His Name is My Name Too
Readings for the Feast of the Holy Name of our Lord Jesus Christ,Friday, January 1, 2021:
I suspect many of us grew up learning that silly kid song, “John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt”:
“John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt,
His name is my name too;
Whenever we go out
The people always shout
John Jacob Jinglehieimer Schmidt!”
Something deep within the human psyche needs names for us to identify and relate to other humans, and sometimes we can be rather picky about that. I may not be John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt, but I’ve certainly spent a lifetime explaining to people that I’m Maria with an “a”, not Marie with an “e”. Getting my name right matters.
Getting their son’s name right mattered to Mary and Joseph, also. Both of them were told before Jesus’ birth the name of the child that we all know as the one who was born in Bethlehem. Mary was told by Gabriel to name her child Jesus, and the angel in Joseph’s dream informed him of the same. We can only imagine what names well-meaning but misguided friends and relatives might have suggested, but the matter was settled on the 8th day of Jesus’ life, when he was presented in the temple to be circumcised. The custom was to declare the child’s name publicly in the temple–and Jesus it was–Yeshua, in Arameic, meaning “God Saves.” His name declared his purpose.
Names matter–yet names aren’t necessarily static. Many of us pick up nicknames over the years–some that stay with us for a lifetime, and others that pinpoint a specific time, place, or activity in our lives. Last names change or become hyphenated in marriage, depending on the culture. People who undergo a gender transition choose a new name to match their new identity. Sometimes, we simply never liked the name that was chosen for us by others, and we legally change it to match who we’ve become or who we wish to become. In the Episcopal Church, we even have a liturgy to reaffirm our commitment to the name of Jesus Christ, given our new name.
Even the name of Jesus is not static. We tend to drift to the name Jesus when we’re describing Jesus Christ in human terms, and Christ when referring to his divinity. We know Jesus by other names, as well–Savior, Redeemer, The Word made Flesh, Wonderful Counselor, Prince of Peace. Our hymnody calls to him as the Bread of Life and the Shepherd of Souls. When we invoke Jesus’ name in Eucharistic Prayer B, we extol him as the Firstborn of All Creation, the Head of the Church, and the Author of our Salvation. Just as our own names shift and drift through our individual life experiences, we use these various names of Jesus to ground us not only to God, but to our sense of our own identity as Christians. Our celebration is not that Jesus has such an awesome physical name, but that his name and our name are eternally linked through the flowing waters of our baptism. His name is my name too.
Is it possible that there is a name that God has chosen for each of us, a name God has always known, and not yet heard? I invite you, on this Feast of the Holy Name, to listen for the sound of Jesus’ name within your own.
Maria Evans splits her week between being a pathologist and laboratory director in Kirksville, MO, and gratefully serving in the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri , as the Interim Pastor at Christ Episcopal Church, Rolla, MO.