A few days ago we celebrated the day on which the Lord was born. We talked about the City of Bethlehem, and the Angels, and Mary and Joseph and a tiny baby. Today we will talk about how that tiny baby was named by God. On Christmas Day we celebrated the birth of a child, a child who was the same as we all were as children. But today we wonder: Who could this tiny baby be?
A very long time ago, before this tiny baby was born, there was a man who had a special ability to listen to God. Because he listened to God, God told him many secrets. God chose him to tell these secrets to the people. He was called a prophet. A prophet was a very special person who heard God's word and then told it to the people. This prophet's name was Isaiah.
Once Isaiah told a secret to the people. He said: "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of darkness, on them light has shined...For a child has been born for us, a son given to us." I wonder who this child could be that Isaiah spoke about in such a special way? Isaiah also told the people that this child would have a special name, a name that would even bring peace. The people waited and waited for the child to be born.
They wondered who Isaiah could be speaking about. Who is this child who had such a very special name?
The people wondered: "When will this child be born?"
Then one day, long after the time of Isaiah, an Angel of the Lord appeared to a woman, a woman who also had a special ability to listen to God. The name of this woman was Mary. The Angel of the Lord came to Mary and told her that she would give birth to a child, and that child would be named "Jesus." Mary wondered about all these things in her heart. Could this possibly be the child that Isaiah spoke about so many years ago? God told Mary amazing things. Most particularly, God told her that she was chosen to give birth to a Son whose name was Jesus.
Mary waited and waited, and then traveled to Bethlehem with her husband Joseph. At last the beautiful day came for Mary to give birth to a Son. What an amazing birth! The Angel of the Lord even visited some Shepherds who watched their flocks of sheep at night to tell them about this special birth. The Angel came and stood before the Shepherds and said: "I am bringing news of great Joy...to you is born this day a Savior, who is the Messiah -- the one who is anointed to save you."
The Shepherds said to each other, "Let us go and see this amazing thing that has taken place!" So they went on a journey. They had been waiting a long time. They had dreamed the dream that the prophet Isaiah spoke so many hears ago: that God would come to dwell among them. They heard the Angel's message, and now they hurried with hopeful Joy. They came searching for a sign. One by one, they walked to see what had happened.
They came to the City of Bethlehem, where they found Mary. Beside Mary was the child, lying in the manger. The Shepherds were amazed. They knew that this was the one, so special, so wonderful! They returned to their flocks, praising God for the birth of this child, who was named "Jesus," the name given to him by the Angel before he was born.
How could it be that this child was named by God? The child was given a name that would bring Peace and Light to people. What a special name God gave to his son Jesus! The name "Jesus" means "He saves." This special Jesus had been sent from God to save people from their sins -- from anything that separates us from God and from one another. As Jesus came to draw us closer to one another and to God, Jesus brings Light and Peace. What a special gift God gives us in the birth of Jesus!
Let us think, imagine, and enjoy this special moment in our story -- the time of great mystery, when people listen and hear God speak, a time of light and love and wonder and joy, for this child, named "Jesus," is Christ the Lord. God is telling us something very important in the naming of this child, Jesus. His name helps us to know God more fully. His name helps us to know how much God loves us. God is telling us in the name of Jesus that he saves us from our sins. Jesus was born to come to each of us so that we may have life to the full and to give us Joy in our love together, as our sins are forgiven.
Let us think, imagine, and enjoy another special moment, another moment in our own story. This is the time when we were born and then named. Imagine how happy that moment was! Each one of us has a special name, a name given to us by our family. God knows our names -- in fact, God calls each one of us by our very own name! God told the prophet Isaiah a long time ago that "I have called you by name; you are mine. Because you are precious in my sight and honored, and I love you."
One special moment when we are called by name is when we are baptized. In baptism we are called by name so that we may be filled with light; we wear a white garment like the angels; and we hear and receive the name of Jesus.
Each one of us was given a special name when we were born, a name that tells us who we are. And when we are baptized, Jesus calls us by our very own special, personal name, calling us to remain in him. He calls us so that he can give us life to the fullest. Do you remember how a bright light shone over the place where the baby Jesus lay in the manger?
A bright light also shines by the place where we are baptized. That light is the light of Christ. At a particular moment in baptism, we receive the light of Christ to fill us with light and love and joy.
There is so much Joy and Love to remember at Christmas: the gift of Jesus and his name, and the gift of your own name. In our name and in Jesus' name we have received a very special gift, one we can take away with us and use all the time in our lives. Just for a moment, close your eyes and imagine that you are standing there with the Shepherds, looking at the newborn baby Jesus, hearing his name, remembering all the love that God gives us in that very special birth.
Now remember your own name, and how God has called you by name and given you light and love in Jesus. Remember the people around you, your family and friends, your classmates. Think about how beautiful their names are, and how God knows every one. Then think of one beautiful thing that happened to you today, something that filled you with joy and light. As you remember these things, you can help to make the rest of the day -- and every day -- beautiful, filled with the light of Christ, with love and joy.
And you don't have to be in church to remember that way! You can stop, anywhere you are, and imagine yourself standing with the shepherds, and hearing the beautiful name of Jesus, and your own beautiful name, and know that you are filled with love and light. And you can share that gift with others, by helping them to see and remember Jesus this way, and by helping God to make the world more beautiful, more full of light, today and always.