January first is better known as New Year's Day, I realize, but as we all make resolutions and turn over new leafs, the church calendar asks us to reflect upon the Name of Jesus.
The Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus is observed variously by different liturgical traditions, but for the traditions I follow, it makes sense to us to observe it today, eight days after the birth of Jesus. It was the Jewish custom to circumcise male babies on their eighth day and that was also when they received their official name. The Gospel of Luke gives the event exactly one verse: Chapter 2, verse 21.
But in the first chapter, the angel Gabriel had told Mary this would be the child's name. And if we parse out the name, we realize "Jesus" is a anglicized version of Yeshua, which is the Aramaic form of Joshua.
Whatever form, the name means "God is salvation."
And we forget this. In these uncertain times (have times ever been certain?) we are worried about the security of retirement funds, about government roles in our lives, about the dosage of our medications, about the price of gasoline.
We forget that it isn't a secure IRA or democracy or medicine or cheap energy that saves us. They can't. They might make our lives easier, no argument there, but they are not the things that bring peace, comfort, hope.
Salvation is one of those slippery terms that I'm forever pulling apart and reassembling, trying to get a grasp on what first century readers understood when they heard the word. I don't believe they all heard it as a "fire insurance" policy to keep them from hell. I don't believe that's what it is.
But I do believe, given the preaching of Jesus, that it has something to do with the Reign of God, wherein the poor are fed, the naked clothed, the imprisoned set free.
So happy New Year, yes, and happy Feast Day of the Holy Name of Jesus.
Let us resolve to remember from where our salvation comes.