Tuesday, January 01, 2008

January 1: Holy Name Day

Today we celebrate Jesus’ circumcision and naming, and, because of that, it’s an important day for us to remember that Jesus was a Jew. I suppose that seems to state the obvious, but it has been a fact forgotten too frequently in the church.

We do it even in his name that we celebrate today. We use the English version of the Greek version of his name. His name was actually Joshua (the English version of Jeshua). This is the name that means “God saves.” In being given this name, he wasn’t being given a unique name at all, as Peter Peters reminded us in church two Sundays ago. He was, however, named after a long-time ancestor—Joshua, the leader of Israel after the death of Moses. And therefore (because of what the name means and his ancestor) the name is heavily symbolic.

Today was our day to have my immediate family for dinner. We ate well and played some games. My oldest niece and her boyfriend (and new baby) stayed a bit longer than the others. They wanted to play “the Game of Life” with us. It has always been one of my favorites, and I suppose it too is symbolic to play on New Year’s Day.

Of course, you win the Game of Life by amassing the most worth, as in wealth. That is far too often how we think we are to play the game of life, and indeed how we play it. Even the Church Pension Fund spends inordinate amounts of time trying to convince we clergy about how much wealth we need to amass to be able to “afford” retirement. It is good advice on the one hand and playing into the game on the other.

Today offers us a different way to play the game of life—the way of Jesus and a God who saves. In this way of playing we may amass wealth (although the more we amass the more responsible we are for sharing it) but that it never, ever the reason for living, and certainly not the measure of our worth. Only the love of God is the measure of our worth in our way of following Jesus. This was also the way followed by his ancestors, from whom he received his name. Not a bad thing to remember today and all the days ahead.

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