Daily Devotional is a ministry of the Living Church.
View this email in your browser

Daily Devotional • December 23

Elizabeth Baumann
What's in a Name?
A Reading from the Gospel of Luke 1:67-80

67 Then his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied:

68 “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
    for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them.
69 He has raised up a mighty savior for us
    in the house of his child David,
70 as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
71 that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us.
72 Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors
    and has remembered his holy covenant,
73 the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham,
to grant us 74 that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies,
might serve him without fear, 75 in holiness and righteousness
    in his presence all our days.
76 And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High,
    for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
77 to give his people knowledge of salvation
    by the forgiveness of their sins.
78 Because of the tender mercy of our God,
    the dawn from on high will break upon us,
79 to shine upon those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
    to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

80 The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day he appeared publicly to Israel.

For years I’ve been fascinated by names and research about naming. Contrary to the inclinations of a lot of parents, research consistently shows that familiar names are an advantage. If your teachers and potential employers don’t struggle to spell or pronounce your name, they’re more likely to want to interact with you. In yesterday’s gospel reading, we saw that Zechariah and Elizabeth’s neighbors totally get that. Moreover, their culture understood deeply something we’ve forgotten: your name connects you to your family, it tells you to whom you belong and who belongs to you; in a way, it designates a space for you in the world and tells you that you belong. So it is kind of shocking when Elizabeth and then Zechariah insist on pulling a name seeming from nowhere.

And today, we hear Zechariah expand on that naming, prophetically. This boy named John will be called other things, in time. His belonging goes further than his own flesh and blood.

As with Jesus, John’s name was given by the angel Gabriel: “You will name him John,” which means “God’s Gracious Gift.” From the very beginning of Genesis, God has created things in the world and set them apart by speaking their names. It’s a lovely interchange that happens as God asks Adam to name the animals. And it’s an interchange that happens again with John and then Jesus: names and identities are entrusted to their parents to be given to them. 

Jesus means “God’s Salvation” and is the same as Joshua, the eponymous hero of the Old Testament book that recounts how the Israelites finally came to settle in the Promised Land. Because it was such a big deal in their history, it was probably a popular name, like we would think of Tom or Steve or Jim — or Joshua, or John! Jesus’ very name indicates that he came to be as we are. And in its simplicity, it will unfold all that his prophet cousin is meant to be. 

John prepares the way for Jesus and so for us. It’s a lovely twist that his name has gone from being a mark that put him outside the norm to being consistently one of the most popular all over Christendom, just as his lonely desert ministry now affects all of our lives today.

Elizabeth Baumann is a seminary graduate, a priest’s wife, and the mother of two small daughters. A transplant from the West Coast, she now lives in “the middle of nowhere” in the Midwest with too many cats.

Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer

Today we pray for:

San Jose Episcopal Church, Jacksonville, Florida
The Diocese of Okigwe South – The Church of Nigeria
Subscribe to Daily Devotionals

Forward to a Friend

You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list

Our mailing address is:
The Living Church
P.O. Box 510705
Milwaukee, WI 53203

Add us to your address book

Copyright © 2022 The Living Church, All rights reserved.