Feast of the Holy Name
The Rev’d Charles Everson
January 1, 2023
When we hear that a woman is pregnant, one of the first questions we ask is, “Do you have any names picked out?” Parents choose names for their children for a variety of reasons – perhaps they choose the name of a saint in the church that has been particularly meaningful to them, or maybe they choose a more modern name that exudes life and freshness and spunk.
No matter which name is chosen, it is safe to say that parents put a lot of thought and time and energy into the decision of what to name their child.
My name, Charles, was given to me by my parents primarily because it was both my grandfather’s and father’s first name. In order to distinguish me from the elder Charles’s, I was called Chuck and that nickname stuck until I was 22 years old. I had just arrived in Paris, France, to serve a two-year stint as a Baptist missionary, and my boss took me to services at St. Michael’s Anglican Church, a Church of England parish with services in English. The vicar’s name was Antony, and his wife was Claire (though we lovingly referred to her behind her back as The Queen due to her formal accent and mannerisms). I introduced myself to her by saying, “My name is Chuck.” She giggled and said, “Oh, how American!” I’ve been Charles ever since.
In 1st century Jewish Palestine, it was common to both circumcise and name boys on the eighth day after birth. We hear in today’s gospel, “After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.” The name “Jesus” in the Greek comes to us from the Hebrew name that we normally translate as Joshua in English. It literally means, “The Lord saves.”  From the name of Jesus comes good news: God himself has come to save us.
In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, he quotes a popular hymn that was sung in the early church. This hymn is essentially a commentary on the name of Jesus. The first stanza speaks of Jesus starting out being in the form of God, but ultimately humbling himself by becoming human and being obedient to the point of death on a cross. In the second stanza, God exalts Jesus and gives him the name that is above every name, thereby winning the allegiance of those in heaven and on earth (and even those “under the earth”!).
In the preceding verses, Paul begins by asking the Philippians to “be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.” He continues, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.” He then launches into the hymn that we talked about by saying “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.”
Paul frames this hymn – this commentary on the name of Jesus – by exhorting the Philippians to be of the same mind that was in Christ Jesus, to be humble, putting the interests of others before our own.
Humility is often confused with humiliation, or letting others walk all over you, but that’s not what it means. Humility is a “quality by which a person considering his own defects has a lowly opinion of himself and willingly submits himself to God and to others for God's sake.” Jesus modeled humility by emptying himself, being born in human likeness, and becoming obedient to the point of death. But humility isn’t a virtue that should be exercised only in extreme situations of life and death; it starts in the small, mundane choices of everyday life.
Saint Benedict, in his rule written to guide the lives of Benedictine monks, writes humility means that monks must submit to their superiors in all obedience for the love of God. He goes on to say, “In this obedience under difficult, unfavorable or even unjust conditions, his heart quietly embraces suffering and endures it without weakening or seeking escape.” One of my bosses in my previous banking career was an overbearing tyrant who liked to micromanage and criticize everything I did. For a time, the situation was certainly unfavorable and probably unjust, but I needed this job to feed my family as Jay had gone back to school full time and wasn’t working. I was faced with a dilemma: get emotionally worked up and fester on it at the risk of blowing up at him, walk out in protest, or quietly embrace the suffering and endure the situation? Another example that comes to mind was a relatively minor issue, but no less relevant. I have an acquaintance that constantly gets on everyone’s nerves due to his overbearing conversational habits and behaviors. No one likes to spend time with him out of utter annoyance, but he asked me to have dinner with him on a holiday evening a few years ago, and I knew that he was lonely and didn’t want to spend the holiday alone. I would have much rather spent time with family or friends, but I knew that the humble and obedient response would be to forgo the festivities and spend time with him instead.
Humility is a virtue to be practiced in all areas of our lives, both individual and communal. How can you and I practice humility in our communal life here at St. Mary’s? Is there some ministry or area of need that could benefit from your time and treasure, but you’ve been ignoring the still small voice leading you in that direction? Or perhaps there’s someone in our community that you know could use a friend right now, but you haven’t yet taken that step to reach out and ask them to share a meal? How might God be calling you to practice the virtue of humility by putting the interests of other parishioners before your own interests?
How about outside of these walls? How might you put your spouse’s interests before your own, or your children, or a co-worker, or a lonely acquaintance, or those who experience racism or oppression in our society?
When the deacon or priest prepares the altar at the Offertory of the Mass, he or she pours a bit of water into the wine and prays, “By the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ, who humbled himself to share in our humanity.” On this the Feast of the Holy Name, let us leave this place empowered by that Great Name to practice the virtue of humility and put others’ interests before our own, and thus come to share in the divinity of Jesus, the One who has come to save us.
 F. L. Cross and Elizabeth A. Livingstone, eds., The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), 872.
 Brandt Montgomery, "'What's in a Name?': A Meditation for the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus," The Living Church: Covenant, http://livingchurch.org/covenant/2017/01/01/whats-in-a-name-a-meditation-for-the-feast-of-the-holy-name-of-jesus/.
 David Lyon Bartlett and Barbara Brown. Taylor, eds., Feasting on the Word, vol. 4 (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2008), 110.
 Arthur Devine, "Humility," CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: Humility, 1910, December 31, 2016, http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07543b.htm.
 Benedict, RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in Latin and English with Notes, ed. Timothy Fry, O.S.B. (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1981), 197.
 Ibid 197.
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