Luke 2:15-21 What’s in a name?

1st January   The Naming of Jesus

Luke 2:15-21, with Numbers 6:22-27, Galatians 4:4-7,

Questions for discussion (or to provoke thought)
1. For us in twenty first century Europe, names are important as personal identity – we don’t like people who always forget our name, or get it wrong.  We see less significance in the name itself.  What do you remember of the importance / significance of the name of God?  (Exodus 3:13ff)
2. Why did it matter that the name of God was used in blessing?  Do you think “putting God’s name on the Israelites” was meant to give them some of his character, or encourage them to imitate it?
3. If we don’t see much importance in the meaning of a name, do we think more about family and belonging?  Is it important and meaningful for you to be part of God’s family?
4. Why is the name Jesus so important?  (Luke 1:31, 2:21) What does the word mean? What associations did it have?
5. Had you realised that, long before his baptism by John, Jesus was circumcised and named in the Jewish way?

A possible sketch for 3 voices: A, B and C.  A & B start, C appears a little later.

A:  Morning!

B:  (pauses, looks suspicious) You’ve done it again, haven’t you?

A:  (trying to look innocent)  Done it? Done what?

B:  You’ve forgotten my name, after trying to remember last week.

A:  It’s on the tip of my tongue, it’ll come back, . .  no, don’t tell me.

B:  Don’t worry, its ___   ___ (supply name).  I don’t really mind, it’s just that when you’re new in a place, you look for signs that people welcome and accept you.  It’s one thing to be told where to get a book or how to find the coffee, but when people remember things about you personally, you feel they are interested and glad to see you.

A:  I’m terribly sorry.  I did enjoy our chat last week, and I remember most of the detail – how you’ve moved in to the house round the corner from the shops, with a washing machine that doesn’t work, and couldn’t find half the things you brought with you.

B:  Hey, that’s really good!

A:  Facts and faces I can cope with – its just names that don’t stick.  I know it matters – I was thinking about the readings this morning.

(C comes up to them)

B:  Good morning ___  ____ (uses C’s name pointedly).

C:  Morning; we’re being a bit formal this morning, aren’t we?

A:  Oh, we were just talking about the importance of names.

C:  Interesting that – I’ve never seen much significance in names.  Parents today seem to choose names because they like the sound of them, or they belong to some celebrity who gets forgotten before the child is a teenager.

A:  But it must be different in other places.  That Old Testament reading about using the name of God in blessing the people.  It’s almost as if the name itself was powerful.

B:  Well, it was given to Moses when he asked God what to tell the Israelites.  “I AM who I AM”  – the Hebrew sounded something like “Yahweh”.  That was the name that would have been used in the blessing.

C:  Perhaps it was powerful because he was free, unlike the slaves, a truly independent being.

A:  or perhaps it was that he existed, rather than being wished into being like some carving that people wanted to worship and control at the same time.

B:  There’s something in both ideas, but I have always liked the thought that by being blessed like that some of God’s character passes on to the worshippers.

A:  You mean, we get to be more like him – kind, faithful, patient, – that sort of thing.

B:  Yes, I think that is one reason why we worship God, and the blessing forms a summary and reminder at the end of the service, or some other time when we need help.

C:  That would make sense of the name of Jesus, too.

B:  How do you mean, “make sense of it”?

C:  Well, the angel who visits Mary is quite definite about the boy being given the name Jesus when he is born.  There’s only one verse to record it in Luke, but that’s what happened when he was circumcised and formally given a name in the Jewish way.  Jesus means “Saviour” if I remember rightly, and as ___ (B’s name) was saying, it’s a summary and reminder of what Jesus life was for.

A:  So his name, unlike most of ours, was chosen for a special and good reason.  That must be why today is kept as a festival of “The Naming of Jesus”.

C:  That explains why Christmas has gone.  I was telling people this week that in Church we don’t finish with Christmas on Boxing Day, but go on thinking about it until Twelfth Night – Epiphany, you know.  Then I come to church this morning and find we aren’t singing so many carols after all.

B:  We’re still celebrating Jesus birth, it’s just that we’ve done the “Silent Night” bit, and we’re moving on to think about what else happened to the baby, including this name given at his Circumcision.  It must have been a very proud moment for Mary and Joseph, even though most of their families were far away.

A:  Perhaps it meant all the more for them just because their families were back in Nazareth.  I know lots of people in Church who value being part of the fellowship all the more because they don’t have many family, or they are so far away they don’t often get to see them.

B:  And we want people in Church to see their place in the Christian family as really important, as something that defines their identity.

C:  Not just a “drop-in centre” then, but somewhere to belong?

A:  That’s it, somewhere to belong, and to try new things and new ideas.  Faith is for growing in, and that needs friends to help and be part of the process

B:  Do you think “belonging” and family may have taken over for us the significance of the meaning of a name?

A:  They matter a lot, but I think it’s about identity – being somebody, and somebody worthwhile, somebody people want to know.

C:  That would explain why we get bothered about identity theft, and those scary stories about forgetting who you are.

B:  Which didn’t happen to Jesus.  He, of all people, always knows what he is doing, and it is always for the good of the people around.

A:  A saviour indeed – I really must try to remember that name, what was it?

B&C:  JESUS!

C:  You were having us on, weren’t you?

(929 words – about 10 minutes)                                 (Click here to return to the Index of Sketches)