Looking Ahead | 2016


In the ancient world names had a meaning. They are not like today. They did not Google names but rather the name they gave their child told a story. A story about how they were born, or conceived, or what was expected of them. For example Esau was given his name because he was harry and his name means harry. Jacob means “supplanter” and he was given his name because he grabbed his brothers heal at birth and was expected to steal his brothers’ primogeniture. Adam comes from the Hebrew adama, which means dirt.

When the angel appeared to Joseph the angel told him “you will name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Matt 1:21) The name Jesus comes from the Hebrew iasha which is a verb that means “to save” from which we get the name Joshua and, more importantly, Jesus.

His name told a story of what was expected of him and of what He would do.

Two weeks ago a church member of mine had a baby and I was the first to visit her in the hospital. The baby was no more than 3-4 hours old. I remember arriving there and seeing the baby still wrinkled and red. Both mom and dad looked tired and exhausted from a long three days.

They told me her name, “Amara Taka” which in their language means, “Grace, Learning is supreme.” As I looked at the wrinkled child I asked her quietly, “how will you live your life, that your name will tell your story.” And I think to myself… did Joseph and Mary, as they lay there exhausted, ask themselves the same question as they looked at their Child? I am sure mom and dad had to wonder why God Himself would choose this name for His child. Did the wise men? Did the innkeeper? Did anyone wonder how the story in the child’s name would come to pass? Did they even know that he would literally save the world?

Now that the Advent season is over the New Year is upon us and we look forward to Easter. And I keep hearing people say, “this year will be different.” The truth is that it is filled with possibility but that means nothing without surrender. When I was in University my professor, Dr.Boyd, told me: “whatever you are struggling with now, surrender it to God now. It will not magically go away once you become a minister. Whatever you go into ministry with will be with you still.” I am butchering his words but that’s the basic idea.

Whatever you are struggling with now you will continue to struggle with in 2016. If you are selfish now you will be selfish in 2016. If you are greedy now you will be greedy in 2016. If you hate someone now you will still hate him or her when the clock hits midnight tonight.

If we want new possibilities, a new future, a new life, they do not lie within self-control or internet memes. But rather, they lie within God Himself. All that held us back in 2015 must surrendered to God if we hope to move freely in the new year.

I think that it is good that Advent is right before the New Year because the birth of the child reminds us that even with a lifetime of new opportunities we are still (and always have been) powerless to change ourselves, so much so that God had to become a babe to save us.

What if today we remembered the Childs name and asked ourselves: how will this child’s name play a part in the story of my life in 2016? Or how has this child’s named already played a part in the story of my life in 2015? I think it would put our resolutions in perspective. I think we would realize that the best resolutions are not what we can change about ourselves but what we can surrender to God.

May we entertain the wonder that Mary and Joseph had over the newborn babe until that dark afternoon in Golgotha. May we ask ourselves the question: how will this child’s name play a part in the story of my life? Or how has this child’s named already played a part in the story of my life?

May on this New Year you remember that new opportunities are before you every day, not just once a year. May you remember that the best resolutions are not what you can change about yourself but what you can surrender to God.

May the love of our eternal father, the counsel and guidance of the Holy Spirit, and grace and the peace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ keep you and be with you all until the day of His glorious return.

Amen.


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