Thursday, December 22, 2011

What's in a Name?

These days everyone has his or her own rules with regard to commencement of the Christmas season--right? I hold hard and fast to the “no Christmas music or decorations until the day after Thanksgiving.” From Black Friday on, I contend people have license to go whole hog. As a child, the radio station KOIT most distinctly marked the change in season by playing Christmas music on that day only. I listened in anticipation for many songs; a special bonus was to hear Amy Grant’s “Emmanuel.”

Grant’s angelic voice proclaims a number of terms we use to describe the one who is born, Jesus the Christ. She sings:
Emmanuel, Emmanuel.
Wonderful, Counselor!
Lord of life, Lord of all;
He's the Prince of Peace, Mighty God, Holy One!
Emmanuel, Emmanuel.
The Gospels make a point of informing us that the messiah would be given a name. Matthew 1:23 states “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means “God is with us” and in Luke’s Gospel we read "Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus."We know the Son of Man as Jesus and Emmanuel, as Christ the King and as the Good Shepherd. Listening to both the readings and to religious music, I can’t help but think, Why do we have so many names for Our Lord? Or more colloquially, What’s in a name?

Naming someone or something is human. We seek to know and build relationships; a name is the first step on that path. When a child is born is not one of the first questions we ask “What is his or her name?” To know that even God made flesh had a name reminds us of the true miracle of the season—the Incarnation.

Second, I believe the name we use for a person says as much about the other as it does ourselves. To my students I am “Ms. Stricherz” my runners, “Coach Stricherz” my friends “Anne” and my beloved I am “Annie.” When my former students graduate, I ask them to call me “Anne” and for many, it’s a difficult transition. When and if the relationship deepens, it’s not a stretch.

And nowhere do we see more of a love for names than in the world of sports. Men and women become athletic heroes, some larger than life. We honor their talent, skill and prowess by personalizing it and them with a special name. With that, they become our own. For example, Joe Montana earned the nicknames Joe Cool, The Comeback Kid, Bird Legs and Golden Joe during his football career. Each one speaks to how he conducted himself on the field and who he was to the 49er Faithful. If “Sweet 16” didn’t matter to the sports history of San Francisco we would only know him as Joe Montana. But as the history books indicate, he was so much more. His other names say that as well.During the Holy Season of Advent, I have decided to pay attention to the name of Christ that I am drawn to. To examine what speaks to me helps me understand and reflect upon what may be going on in my life and in my heart. Although I seldom think of Jesus as “Wonderful Counselor,” I am grateful that Grant’s music has reminded me that He is. And that’s fitting, for events in my life the past year have drawn me to Jesus in this way. But to be a Christian is to know our world is in great need of Jesus as well. Thinking of the war and violence in our world, I have called on the Prince of Peace many times.

In these final days of Advent and as the Christmas season truly commences, spend some time thinking of the one who was born, and what you want to call Him.

Photo Credits
Joe Cool
Amy Grant
Adoration of the Shepherds

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