The Presentation of Mary
1st Sunday after Christmas
Grace, Mercy and Peace to you from God our Father and His only Son, Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.
One of the most interesting aspects of being in the U.S. Navy was meeting many people from many different backgrounds, cultures and countries. When they were all mixed together on ship, they all became one family. Everybody had to get along in order to get the job done.
It was as if 350 people were all adopted at the same time. That meant everybody had to learn the names of all their brothers and sisters at the same time. Fortunately, everybody’s last name was sewn in a nametag on their uniform along with their rank.
The names of my shipmates were a constant enjoyment for me. There were the more common names like, Smith and Miller. But every once in a while, a name would catch me by surprise. There was a man named Lilly; he was very pale. We had sailors named House, Hill and Busch. There was a sailor named Days and another named Eves. One of my co-workers was named Crook; he was from Tennessee. We even had a sailor named Munday; everybody hated Munday.
But the most interesting name I ever came across while in the Navy was when I was an instructor at the Naval Training Command in Great Lakes, Ill.
One day I was substituting for another instructor in the classroom and I see a young man who has a very long name on his uniform. It read “Starcruiser”. At first, I thought I was misreading the name, but sure enough, that was what the name spelled.
When asked about his unusual name, he told the story that he must have repeated thousands of times all his life. His full name was “Millennium Falcon Starcruiser”. He did not change his name from some other name, his father had changed the family name to Starcruiser. The story is that this young man’s father married a Filipina woman who spoke no English.
As in many cultures (even ours) names can show occupation, like Cooper or Miller. Names can also refer to other aspects of the son or daughter. Many people name their first son Adam. Some may name a female child from what month they were born like April or May.
This young man’s father was naming the children with names like Millennium Falcon and Moonbeam and the mother didn’t realize that they were not common names. That was until she learned enough English and put a stop to the crazy naming of her children.
For this first Sunday after Christmas, we hear of the naming of another firstborn male child. This was the custom of the Israelites as St. Luke tells us, ‘…it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”, and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”’ [Luke 2:23-24]
This firstborn son of Mary was not, however, to be named after his earthly father, Joseph, but after his true and heavenly Father. His name was to be called, Jehoshua, which means: Jehova, my salvation – or as we know him, Jesus.
This past week, we have heard of some of the names or titles of Jesus. He has been called, Immanuel, Mighty God, Counselor, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. The most important title of all is the Christ, the anointed one, the Messiah.
The chosen people of God, also known as, the Israelites, had been waiting centuries for the Messiah. Written in their sacred books, spoken about by prophets sent from God, this holy people were to be on the lookout for the Christ.
They were told that he would free them from their captivity. It was prophesied that the government would be upon his shoulder and there would be no end to his peace on earth. This Immanuel would sit upon the throne of David and establish justice forever. [Isaiah 9:6,7]
Not only would this Christ rule with the hand of God, but he would also save his people from their sin. It is the Mighty God who would crush the great Adversary, Satan, and bring His people back into the promised land of our Father in heaven.
“Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel.” [Luke 2:25] Simeon was waiting for the Christ. This Messiah, the one who saves, was the most wanted man in the world.
Astronomers, the wise men, from the East sought him out. Herod, the king of Judea, wanted him dead. The ruling class of the Israelites, the Pharisees, scribes and teachers of the Law wanted this Jesus out of the way. The people themselves wished to see the prophecy fulfilled and their freedom attained.
Simeon wanted to see this Jesus so badly that he prayed that God would let him live long enough to see the Messiah. Simeon wanted to see the salvation of all people in the form of the child.
The Holy Spirit was upon Simeon and he praised God with words we still use today in our liturgy. It is the Nunc Dimittis, which tells us of the glory of the baby wrapped in swaddling clothes. He will be a light of revelation to the Gentiles and for the glory of the people of Israel.
This infant will cause the mighty to fall and the truth to be told. He is the one foretold who will redeem Jerusalem. His name will strike fear in the hearts of the wicked and bring healing to the poor and oppressed.
As the Christ grew into adulthood, his name was praised and cursed. Those who believed and were baptized, took on the name of Christ and became members of God’s family. Through their baptism they were also crucified in Christ, but they were also raised into life through that same baptism. Their name became Christians and their lineage became one with Jesus. His resurrection from the tomb was their resurrection to life everlasting.
Those who rejected Christ as their Lord and Savior became outcasts from our heavenly kingdom. For them, the crucifixion of Jesus was a way to eliminate a problem and threat to their earthly kingdom.
When Jesus was captured and put on trial, even his staunch disciples began to doubt this Messiah. St. Peter denied any affiliation so as not to be under suspicion himself. He denied the name of Jesus in order to avoid receiving punishment for another man’s actions. Later, he repented his denial and proudly bore the name of Christ unto his own crucifixion.
Today the wait is over. Christ has come and redeemed his people. This he did according to the will of God in heaven. Being truly God and truly man, Jesus, the Lord’s Salvation, tore down the curtain of death that separated us from our Creator.
The question now comes to us. What is your name? Are you known by any other name? Were you baptized into the family of Christ but avoid using his name?
In this world, it may be tough to claim the name of Christian. It may seem insane to be associated with the actions of a man crucified for the sins of others. We may not wish to be called names such as ‘Ignorant’, ‘Foolish’, or just plain ‘Crazy’ because we believe in the Messiah.
Jesus Christ was the firstborn who sacrificed himself so that we would become sons & daughters of God and redeemed from death. He rules over his people with justice and might. We are now freed from the captivity of our sin. God is with us and his peace is on the earth.
You are to be called by His name so that all people know to what family you belong. According to the Law of God, the firstborn Lamb has been sacrificed so that we would be consecrated to the Lord. St. Paul reminds the congregation in Galatia:
“…when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.” [Galatians 4:4-7]
Through our baptism, we have a new name. It is a name given to us so that we will inherit all that our Father in heaven wants to give. This name was given to us before we were born and before the earth was formed. We did not pick this name; it was given to us through Jesus Christ.
We now walk in the Holy Spirit. Our actions and our words are that of Christ Jesus. With the Holy Spirit, we will not defame the name of our Savior. Let his name speak for him through you. Let his name be the first name for all people. Amen.