Sermons from St Faith's
The Holy Name of Jesus
Kelley, January 1st, 2012
Today’s liturgy focuses on the sanctity of Our Lord’s name. For
many, Jesus or Christ is yet another swear-word in what is probably
a fairly short vocabulary. I remember saying to a member of my
family years ago that I’d be grateful if they opted for the short
four-letter word, beginning with F, rather than take the Lord’s name
in vain. When I said it was less offensive they were puzzled!
But for many, the name Christ, or Jesus, is just that. A word to
shock or express a negative feeling or experience. Invocation of the
Holy Family is not really any better.... “Jesus, Mary and Joseph!”
As today’s Communion hymn puts it:
How sweet the name of Jesus sounds
in a believer’s ear!
It soothes his sorrows, heals his wounds,
and drives away his fear.
The Christ means the anointed one, the Messiah. This description of
the saviour is foretold in the Hebrew Scriptures. And in the Gospels
the angel says, you must call his name Jesus, for he will save his
people from their sins. The naming of Jesus is customary (8 days
after his birth he is circumcised and named) in much the same way as
some of our generation bring young children to baptism, and some
remember the custom of the churching of women a generation or so
But what of the name of Jesus? What does that name mean to you? How
do we use that name? Do we use it with reverence and awe? Is it, at
times, simply another expletive? Well, some of us at times feel the
need for the odd expletive. There are plenty to choose from.
Many Anglicans would not consider it ‘high church’ at all, to bow
the head at the name of Jesus in the Creed. Many of us automatically
do it. That is what we were taught at an early age. It is one way
that we physically show and express our respect for the Holy Name.
But that name is holy at all times, not just when it comes in the
creed. In our hymns and our prayers, it should be quite natural for
us to bow the head at the name of Jesus. I fear it is something
which has fallen out of fashion. As a mark of respect and worship,
it must be restored.
In today’s offertory hymn we sing words of St. Paul, telling us that
“at the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow”. It is this apostolic
teaching that is at the root of the practice of genuflection, or
bowing the knee, when passing near the place where the Blessed
Sacrament is reserved. At the presence of Jesus, every knee shall
bow. It is a mark of respect which should be no different to a mark
of request which we should give were a member of the Royal Family to
be present. And if we can bend the knee at a human monarch, how much
more respect ought we to pay to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords?
Respect for the Holy Name of Jesus and a physical gesture at the
Sacramental presence of Christ, together with a bow at the mention
of the Holy Name are ways in which we demonstrate our love for our
Lord, both to the Lord Himself and to those around us. If those of
us who claim to love the Lord cannot express a real respect for the
Holy Name and a desire to cherish it, what hope have we of the world
around us taking the Lord’s name seriously? Thou shalt not take the
name of the Lord thy God in vain....
That is the message of today’s feast. But another overriding theme
of today is of course a new start and new beginning. Yes, it is only
the start of a calendar year, but it is a time when people make
resolutions – usually to do away with the things we have enjoyed
over Christmas! People sign up to worship the gods of health clubs
and horrid diets – to shed a few pounds and get in better shape. And
that’s just the clergy!!
“I do think New Year's resolutions can't technically be expected to
begin on New Year's Day, don't you? Since, because it's an extension
of New Year's Eve, smokers are already on a smoking roll and cannot
be expected to stop abruptly on the stroke of midnight with so much
nicotine in the system. Also dieting on New Year's Day isn't a good
idea as you can't eat rationally but really need to be free to
consume whatever is necessary, moment by moment, in order to ease
your hangover. I think it would be much more sensible if resolutions
began generally on January the second." So speaks the writer of
Bridget Jones’s Diary!
Our new year’s resolutions remind us that part of our pilgrimage in
life will always be to strive to do better. Even the practically
perfect amongst us have a little way to go...
G. K. Chesterton said that “The object of a New Year is not that we
should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul.” The
start of a new year is a helpful time to re-commit ourselves and
asses our priorities.
Shepherd, Brother, friend,
my Prophet, Priest and King
my Lord, my Life, my Way, my End,
accept the praise I bring.
Jesus is many things to us. Our forthcoming stewardship campaigns
will be a God-given opportunity for us in the United Benefice to
demonstrate to the community around us just how much the Lord and
the Church mean to us.
We stand at the gate of another new year very conscious of what has
gone wrong in the year that has passed. But conscious, too, of the
opportunities and potential ahead of us. There will always be
someone for whom the past year has been an annus horribilis. We come
to the Altar today knowing our weakness, knowing the coldness of our
hearts sometimes, but longing for our Lord to warm us with his love.
Whether your Christmas has been Merry or not, whether 2012 will be a
Happy Year, which is what most of us wish for each other today, or
whether 2012 will be the same mix of ups and downs, joys and
sorrows, we pray that it will be a year where the Lord’s name may be
hallowed and praised and that it may be a year in which we realise
the blessings we are given when we stretch out our hands towards the
"For last year's words belong to last year's language And next
year's words await another voice. And to make an end is to make a
T.S. Eliot, "Little Gidding
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