15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. 17 When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
21 After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.
My ex-wife and I named our daughter the moment she was born…as we had already decided on names for our baby, one if it was a boy, another if it was a girl…
Happily, we had a girl, and I first called her by name only a few moments after she was born, so that she could start off her new life with a name.
In our culture the naming of a child usually happens right after birth, though I have known of a few cases where the parents waited a day or two to formally name their baby, but then had to put up with questions from their family and many of their friends.
In Jesus’ culture the formal naming of a child was more akin to our Baptism, it was a welcoming of the child into the community, the beginning of their life of faith and fellowship, and a very big deal, accompanied by celebrations and meals shared with everyone in the community.
I once worked with a man named Abe, who was of the Chasidic Jewish faith, a group who still held tight to the old traditions, so when his son was 8 days old, they had a naming ceremony for him (similar to the one Jesus would have had), and to celebrate, Abe brought wine and cakes into the office. Together we toasted his new son, who was to be named Simeon later that day; the neat thing was that Abe invited everyone to take part in the celebration, even those people he did not always get along with, as the tradition called for all members of the community to celebrate the naming of a child.
Likewise, the naming of Jesus was when he was welcomed into his community and into his faith, it was a new beginning for him, his family and for all of us…as Jesus would grow up to transform the world with his message of God’s love for all people; and like with the naming of Abe’s son, we are all included in this celebration!
Today, as we celebrate the New Year, it is also a new beginning for all of us; a new beginning which holds much promise and many challenges for the year ahead.
As single parents we know a lot about new beginnings and starting over in life…
Whether it was when we first became single parents, and did not really know all that this would mean to us and to our children, when our children first went off to school, when they first set off on their own in the car, or when they left home for college or to start life on their own…new beginnings can be exciting as well as scary, as they can be times of uncertainty but also of hope, as we face a new chapter in our lives, and in the lives of our children.
Today we starting off on a new year, and as we do so, perhaps we feel some anxiety as we are not sure what challenges and surprises this year will bring; however, there is also hope, as the year will also have moments of joy and celebration…hope in that the fact that we do not go into the year alone, but with our children, family, friends, and surrounded by God’s grace!
Our children, and our lives will change over the coming year, but one thing that will stay with us, is the light of Christ in our lives…the light that shows the way through all of our challenges, and that brightens our joy!
Let us Pray
God, help us to start off this new year on a positive note, focusing on the love we share with our children, family and friends, and on the love you have given to us in Christ. Thank you for giving us this gift of love, and for never leaving us alone.