1st January 2023 10.30am – Naming of Jesus Eucharist

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23 01 01 Naming of Jesus

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Image © The Rev’d Sarah West | visiolectio.com



The Readings

Numbers 6. 22 - end

The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the Israelites: You shall say to them,
The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;
the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.

So they shall put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.

Luke 23. 33 - 43

When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. [[ Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.’]] And they cast lots to divide his clothing. And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, ‘He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!’ The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, ‘If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!’ There was also an inscription over him, ‘This is the King of the Jews.’

One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, ‘Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!’ But the other rebuked him, saying, ‘Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.’ Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ He replied, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.’

Scripture Quotations are from: New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

The Sermon
By Rev Dr Alan Billings


We don’t know, we can’t know, when human babies were first given names. That is shrouded in the mists of remote time. Nor do we know why they were given names. Why not just give new-borns a number or a registration, like a car.

Mind you, I don’t suppose many of us would be altogether content to go through life known as BW66RCY.

But it might have happened that way.

We might have been given not a name but a number.. And for large parts of our lives, that is how we are known. The state, for instance, knows us by a number or series of numbers, as much as a name. You have a national insurance number. An NHS number. A passport number. And so on. It would make life a little simpler if the state knew us by one number. I might remember one number. But there we go.


Of course some people don’t like the name they are given by their parents, so they change it. I have a sister-in-law who has never wanted to be known as Felicity – she never felt like a Felicity – but is always called Sue.

So we have names, names that are personal to us and that somehow, we feel, capture us and who we are. We are comfortable with our names. This is why the first step in getting to know someone who is new to us is to ask them their name. It’s why in older age it can be distressing if we can’t remember someone’s name. It’s as if we are losing not just what they answer to, but them.

The naming of Jesus is, then, a very important moment for him and his family.

Jesus is Jewish. Eight days after his birth, therefore, in the Jewish tradition, he is circumcised and named. And the name his parents give him is Jesus. In Hebrew that’s Yeshua, which we sometime translate as Joshua. And it derives from words meaning saviour or physician or healer.

By naming him Jesus, his parents are giving him a name that reminds them of the nature of God. God is the saviour, the healer, the spiritual physician of all people.

But let me return again to the matter of numbers. We are given a number when someone wants to count us. Social services. The insurance company. The bank. The housing department. And so on. It’s a feature of the complex, modern world in which we live. And while that number may be unique to us – no one else has it – it has the effect of dehumanising us. Those who count us in this way are not interested in us, our unique personality, but only in being able to see where we are in a queue or in a digital filing cabinet. A number enables us to be counted, classified, filed. So they give us a number.

The naming of a child – whether at a Jewish circumcision or a Christian baptism – is the great antidote to this aspect of modern life. At circumcision and at baptism, you are given a name, not a number. Because Jewish and Christian faith is not about counting, classifying, categorising or filing, it is about celebrating a particular person, loved by God, not because we fit in some category of people, but because we are this unique individual.


So, on this day when we call to mind the naming of Jesus, remember you too have a name. You count.

Remember that when you are next asked for your number.

Remember that when you next get a heating bill that identifies you as a ten digit number and says you owe them 0 pounds and 0 pence and have seven days in which to pay up or they will send the bailiffs round.

Remember that in those times when you feel lost or lonely or despairing.

You have a name. You count.

Whatever you have done or not done, you cannot be reduced to a number. Like Jesus, you have a name. You don’t exist merely to be counted. You count.

The Prayers
Prepared by David.

In and through the name of Jesus let us pray to the Father.

How sweet the name of Jesus sounds
in a believer’s ear!
It soothes his sorrows, heals his wounds,
and drives away his fear.

We give thanks for the name of Jesus …
We pray for the worship and mission of Christ’s Church …
Lord, hear us.
Lord, graciously hear us.

It makes the wounded spirit whole,
and calms the troubled breast;
’tis manna to the hungry soul,
and to the weary rest.

We pray for the world and for its healing …
We pray for all who carry heavy loads …
Lord, hear us.
Lord, graciously hear us.

Weak is the effort of my heart,
and cold my warmest thought;
but when I see thee as thou art,
I’ll praise thee as I ought.

We pray at the beginning of this new year
for renewed discipleship and consecration to the way of the Lord …
Lord, hear us.
Lord, graciously hear us.

Till then I would thy love proclaim
with every fleeting breath;
and may the music of thy name
refresh my soul in death.

We remember with thanksgiving all who have run the race before them …
We pray that, surrounded by such a cloud of witnesses,
we may run with perseverance the race that is set before us.

Merciful Father,
accept these prayers
for the sake of your Son,
our Saviour Jesus Christ.