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Daily Devotional • January 1
Feast of the Holy Name

Emily Hylden
Timeworn Graces
A Reading from the Gospel of John 16:23b-30

23 “Very truly, I tell you, if you ask anything of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. 24 Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete.

25 “I have said these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures but will tell you plainly of the Father. 26 On that day you will ask in my name. I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf, 27 for the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. 28 I came from the Father and have come into the world; again, I am leaving the world and am going to the Father.”

29 His disciples said, “Yes, now you are speaking plainly, not in any figure of speech! 30 Now we know that you know all things and do not need to have anyone question you; by this we believe that you came from God.”

Jesus, God incarnate, was circumcised before he was given his name — the name that’s now above all names. Why did Jesus have to do all these rituals? He is bigger and beyond all the fiddle faddle of human tradition! Christ has the power to abolish, reject, overcome any strictures he chooses, it’s true. But what might we learn from the fact that when God in Jesus Christ became human, he more than respected Jewish custom? 

Not all rituals are just “fiddle faddle.” Jesus wasn’t just going through motions to appease elders. He was, as Scripture itself says, “fulfilling the law.” He came not to abolish, but to bring God’s holy law, along with all the bits misused and distorted by humans, into its full, mature, fruited expression. Jesus submitted himself to the authority of his tradition, to the forebears who had carried the stories and the truth of God for thousands of years before his incarnated arrival. 

I wonder what it might mean for us to place that sort of trust and show that sort of deference to God himself, even through the traditions we inherit. We so often consider ourselves evolved beyond a child-like trust; we may find it fashionable to be skeptical. But the thing about sacraments is that they bring God into the tangible stuff of our lives, they meld the expansiveness of God with the limited nature of creation. God in Jesus came not to condemn the world, but to make it glorious in its very creatureliness. We love and respect and practice over and over the prayers and liturgies and sacraments of our forebears because God continues to meet us in these timeworn — and time-trusted — graces. 

The Rev. Emily R. Hylden resides with her priest husband and three sons in Lafayette, Louisiana. Find her podcasting at Emily Rose Meditations.

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