Malachi 3:1-4, 23-14
Both this previous weekend, as well as today, we’re given an invitation to reflect on the power of names. This Sunday Mary and Joseph are told to name their child “Jesus,” and today, we hear Elizabeth and Zechariah naming their own son “John.” During a baptism, parents are asked “what name have you given your child?” We know that names are important. They hold cultural, religious, or family significance. Our names represent us.
Elizabeth and Zechariah break with their cultural tradition of naming children after parents or grandparents. Instead, they name their son “John,” which means, “the Lord shows favour.” There’s a certain foreshadowing in this name. The last few weeks, we’ve seen John preparing the way for Jesus, and it seems even his name prepares the way, too. Jesus’ birth, God becoming human, is a fulfillment of God’s favour for all of creation.
In response to this break with tradition, their community responds in a way that any of us probably would, too. “We’ve never done it that way before!” Little do they know at the time, that Jesus’ ministry will elicit this very same response time and time again.
We’re given our inspiration today to reflect on what the coming of Jesus means. Did Jesus come to uphold the status quo? Or did he come so that we can see things in a different way? If the latter is true, then “we’ve never done it that way before,” is part of the “why” of Jesus’ birth. What, then, does that mean for us as we prepare to celebrate Christmas this year?
Luke Bulley CP serves as the assistant priest at St Paul Apostle in Endeavour Hills. He is also a co-founder and Team Leader of The Francis Project, an interdenominational school for Church renewal.