In a fitting conjunction, we celebrate January 1 as New Year's Day and also as the Feast of the Holy Name, commemorating the naming of Jesus eight days after birth. The Word who spoke the world into being is assigned a linguistic configuration of sounds and symbols within that world. He is named Jesus, as the angel had instructed. The Word becomes flesh. The divine takes on the human. The ineffable is named. This is the mystery of the incarnation. Yet the marvel goes even deeper. "He was made man that we might become god," wrote St. Athanasius in the fourth century. A great exchange! He becomes like us that we might become like him. In these remaining days of Christmastide we contemplate this deep mystery.
Jesus, you are the Word. You are with God and you are God. You were in the beginning with God and all things came into being through you. In you is life and this life is the light of all people. The darkness cannot overcome your light.
At your name, Jesus, I bend my knee this day and confess with my tongue that you are Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Amen.
Inviting God's Presence
O God, send the Spirit of your Son into my heart so that I may cry, "Abba! Father!" Amen.
In this new year, O Lord, bless me and keep me, along with those I love; make your face to shine upon us and be gracious to us; lift up your countenance upon us and give us peace; I ask this in your holy name. Amen.
Daily Scripture Reading: The Word Became Flesh
Monday, January 4: John 1:1-18
Whereas Luke and Matthew start their Gospels with the birth of Jesus, John begins his with a profound theological prologue. Note the echoes of Genesis. Note the symbol of light. What do you make of John's designation of Jesus as the Word? The Greek word logos entails "idea, wisdom, truth, coherence"; logos means "meaning." But this transcendent "being-ness" of God does not remain inaccessible in the spiritual realm. No, the Word becomes flesh and lives among us: he entered our history, he shares our creaturely experience, he completely identifies with us. He is like us - fully human - but not like us. John summarizes his firsthand experience: We saw his glory and it was full of grace and truth. Take time to reflect on this powerful and beautiful combination, grace and truth present in equal fullness, love and righteousness fully conjoined. What would this look like in your life? Further, how do you experience both grace and truth in your own relationship with Jesus?
Tuesday, January 5: Philippians 2:5-11
Paul's christological hymn in Philippians 2 captures the incarnation in a succinct but compelling fashion. It deserves extended meditation. Jesus chooses to let go of his divine nature and prerogatives, as it were, and to empty himself in becoming human. A great descent! And not simply human in some privileged way, but he came all the way down to the point of tortuous execution. And it is right to anticipate the death of Jesus even in this Christmas season - and his resurrection and great ascent! For God gives him a name above every conceivable name in heaven and earth, one that ultimately will command the allegiance of every creature in existence. It certainly commands ours.
Wednesday, January 6: Galatians 4:4-7
For the Galatians, Paul stresses that Christ became the child of a woman that we might become children of the Spirit. He identifies with us so that we can identify with him - children of the same "Abba" and heirs of the same inheritance.
Thursday, January 7: Psalm 8
Psalm 8 is always read during the Feast of the Holy Name. It celebrates the paradox that we humans, while small and inconsequential compared with the majestic glory of our Creator, have been accorded remarkable responsibility within his creation. But deeper theological reflection (aided by New Testament citations of the psalm in Heb. 2:5-9; 1 Cor. 15:24-27 and Eph. 1:19-22) points to the incarnate Word by whom this human role is ultimately fulfilled.
Friday, January 8: Numbers 6:22-27
In Numbers 6, God gives a blessing for the priests of the Israelites to say over the people, and in so doing, to "put God's name on them." The blessing of God accompanies the bearing of his name. Reaffirm to God your willingness to hallow and bear his name in this new calendar year, and let yourself freely ask his blessing for yourself and for those you love.
From Living the Christian Year: Time to Inhabit the Story of God by Bobby Gross