Saturday Soundings. What’s in a name? Reflections on Luke Ch 2 v 15 to 21.

The Gospel of Luke tells us that at the birth of Christ there were many, many groupings across society; caught up in the nativity story. From the celestial ( “an angel choir”, Luke 2 v 15 The Message) to those grounded in very earthly realities, the shepherds, dotted around the hillsides of Bethlehem, to the bewildered new parents Mary and Joseph (Luke 2 v 17).

You might say that Christ’s birth broke through the then prevailing social stratifications (including those other worldly)…

From the “highest”, (the Angels),

To the “lowest”, (the Shepherds),

To the “everyday” and quite possibly “bewildered”, (Mary and Joseph in being new born parents; albeit in somewhat miraculous circumstances).

The birth of Christ, as foretold by Jewish prophets of old, such as Isaiah, began to upset the way the world worked (or was supposed to work) under the jurisdiction of the then Roman empire. A world that at that time in history understood a definite ranking…

A Caesar who ruled with self given “divine right”.

A Caesar appointed, local ruler, Herod, (backed up and controlled by enormous military might),

Local magistrates and government functionaries who administered Roman law,

Those who were actual Roman citizens or who had become Roman citizens,

The actual local population with its own hierarchical structures and religious practices,

Roman slaves and prisoners with no rights outside of death or a very kind slave owner potentially granting freedom after years of servitude.

Not to mention the place of women, children, the weak, infirm and the outsider both in Roman and in this case Jewish society.

Yet into this highly stratified and “know thy place and shut up” wee part of the Roman Empire, amidst the millions of the Empire’s citizen’s and those conquered, a child is born…

And given a name.

“When the eighth day arrived, the day of circumcision, the child was named Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived” (Luke 2 v 21, The Message).

And what a name…Jesus, “God saves” (Matthew 1 v 23).

Jesus, the God who saves, who lifts up the broken hearted, heals the sick, cuts through social norms in proclaiming good news for all.

Jesus, the God who saves, who knows each of us uniquely by our name and are therefore not hidden from sight and not crushed by how society sees us and are called by our name to follow…

this Christmas season,

the infant Jesus.


Picture courtesy of @savbrown

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