On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.
Maybe you've moved on, but since we're still very much in the days after the birth of Jesus (do you remember that Christmas was barely 2 weeks ago???), I'm reflecting on an overlooked detail in the book of Luke.
I'm thinking about the week that Jesus didn't have a name. Did you catch that Jesus wasn't named until the 8th day of his life? He was alive and kicking, obviously. But still.... he remained nameless for a week.
In traditional Jewish circles this is still the case. A son's name isn't announced until the circumcision on the eighth day, and a daughter's name isn't revealed until the baby naming ceremony. Usually, no name is even spoken aloud before that time. You can find various reasons for the tradition (some are pretty profound), but no one really knows where it originated from. The oldest source material we have for this specific tradition is in the gospels.
So during this unnamed week, we have a child living, breathing, and being held in the arms of Mary. In a very real sense he was still Jesus, as Mary knew from the angel's revelation to her, even before he was conceived. But he was not identified aloud as Jesus, the one who rescues. For seven days, an unidentified rescuer was in the world.
All this is leading me to think about the moments that Jesus is unnamed in my life.
I'm often struck by my own practical atheism. I may believe in my head that the spirit of Christ is present with me, and the promise that Jesus is with me always, even until the end of the age (Mt. 28:19). But I will go hours on many days- HOURS! without thinking about that presence or naming it. Hours without looking around and noticing God in my midst. I leave Jesus completely unnamed.
I also wonder if there are moments of rescue in my own life: moments of supernatural peace during stress and heartache, moments of divine rest during exhaustion, moments of grace that eclipses guilt or shame-- and I have completely missed naming Jesus as rescuer in those moments.
I'm not trying to guilt trip myself, nor am I the type that wants to just go around spiritualizing everything with high and holy language. But everything is spiritual, and even the scriptures teach me that Jesus is before everything and in him all things hold together (Col 1). So I also don't want to live without naming him, and miss the opportunity to grow in the life-giving awareness of God-with-me.
In Jewish culture, naming a child is a deeply sacred moment. You are giving language to a soul. It should not be treated lightly, and it is deeply beautiful.
I want to name Jesus in my own life more this year. I want to look around the world and name Jesus in the mystical moments of love and compassion that I see. I want to name Jesus in my children when I see them opening up more and more to their identity as God's beloved. I want to name Jesus so that I can give better language to what is happening in my own soul.
I'm thankful that Jesus is still present with us, even when he goes unnamed in my life and yours. But this year, let's eagerly anticipate the moments to look into own lives, sense new opportunities for love and transformation, and say:
I know exactly who that is. That's Jesus.
Lord, help me notice your presence with me and in our world today.