"A New Name Springs Forth"

Today's sermon was preached by Rev. Marissa Danney, hospital chaplain and chaplain educator at UCSF and friend of this congregation.

Lesson: Luke 2: 22- 40

“You shall be called by a new name”

Our promise from Isaiah strikes a particular chord of longing within me, this year.


A year that has been defined by many names or phrases



Quarantine are but a few

The World Health Organization named 2020 the “Year of the Nurse and Midwife,”

due to the amazing efforts of nurses, and the increase in work for midwives as

expecting mothers want to avoid giving birth in the hospital.

There are more names that have defined this past year

Black Lives Matter


Say Their Names

George Floyd

Breonna Taylor




And yet – I don’t want to slip into the thinking that it’s all easily attributed to a year,

Some of these things have happened to us, and some of these things we’ve

Agreed to in our society, hopefully, up until now

Two shelter in place mandates in CA,

Have given us time to reflect on what has named us:

who we have been

Who we continue to be

And whether or not it’s working.

I don't think it’s working.

We need a new name.

Black and brown bodied people continue to be targeted by “law enforcement”

Funneled into legalized slavery

Stripped of rights explicitly

Or disguised under “a nice coat of white paint”

In a nation with food at its fingertips [holds up phone]

Millions continue to struggle with food scarcity

The people native to these lands continue to be seen as imposters

And our country is radically split in a pendulum swinging, dichotomous, two party


Our politicians are not nominated, but rather select and sell themselves, and are

bought by us.

It’s not working and we need a new name

I don’t mean to be glib

But this Christmas, my prayer is that God’s miraculous being

meets us in what is real

in our mess as it is!

“Thy kingdom come, thy will be done”

We need God’s help

to right what we have not been able to right

We need God with us, so much!

We need Emmanuel.

We need a new name

And Christmas has given us just that to celebrate:

In the birth and the name of Jesus

Right before this passage of Luke 2:22-40,

Mary and Joseph name their baby as the angel instructed them: “Jesus,”

Now, Jesus is the greek form of the Hebrew name “Joshua” –

And Joshua means “the Lord saves”

Simeon and Anna

Two prophets in the temple

Recognize clearly that Lord was saving their world in this little one named Jesus.

They saw and proclaimed that a new name

a new time was being ushered in.

Simeon begins,

And led by the Holy Spirit into the temple at just the right time,

He looks and sees the holy family.

“For my eyes have seen your salvation”

The Lord Saves in Jesus

Even early in Jesus’ life as an infant,

Simeon recognizes that this isn’t just the messiah for the Jews,

Rather, “a light for revelation to the Gentiles (non-Jews)”

AND “for glory to your people Israel.”

In other words, this little one is saving Simeon’s world

By drawing two opposite and in some ways opposed

Factions together

In light and glory.

They were expecting a political messiah for one side, and yet they got so much more.

Simeon declares Jesus as Messiah to God

And then addresses his mother Mary,

And then the prophet Anna arrives

And she declares this child as the “redemption of Jerusalem”

To all – or to the public.

A Russian poet wrote recently, “Jesus must be up to something good if he keeps

coming back year after year.”

Well this has been no ordinary year

And we welcome back the new name of Jesus

Both an ancient name literally,

But a new name for our time and our context

We welcome back the saving acts and graces of God

Into our world

Our time

What is the new name that will spring forth?

Astronomy has some ideas of what new names will arise in this time.

On December 21st, Jupiter and Saturn came together in a “Grand Conjunction” —

the closest they’ve appeared together in nearly 800 years.

Jupiter and Saturn meet every 20 years or so, but rarely do they get so close.

Astronomers say, the Grand Conjunction sets the tone for the ethos of the next 20

years. They anticipate new names for us:

This conjunction is taking place in Aquarius, and so astrologers anticipate

innovation, humanitarianism, and independence, where the planets have not met

since 1405 — right around the start of the Renaissance.

Aquarius is named to be intellectual, communicative, and idealistic, perhaps

something to anticipate for the next 200 years.

It is said that this combination of planets is the same that occurred

Over Bethlehem

Creating what looked like a bright “star”

So perhaps our new name is even written in the stars

I don't know

And yet I continue to ask:

What conjunction are we at this Christmas season?

Whatever it is

We’re ready for a new name

The name of righteousness

And praise

Of beauty

Of light

Of redemption.

What are you hoping for?

What name do you want ushered in?

Perhaps it is astronomical

Perhaps it is social or political

Perhaps it is spiritual

But we are at our own conjunction in history

And we are ready for God’s new name for us

Even more so, God is ready to save us again

To dwell among us

To dwell more fully within us

And to rename us.

If I were to name this time, I would name it The Time of Discernment

Because now is truly a time to enter into prayer and listen

Listen for the name God is calling you to live into

Miraculous shifts have occurred in the past, and God is alive and well, working

among us now.

What new name are you hoping for?

Jesus is here. Ask, listen, and live.

Our scripture passage ends, not with more fanfare for the holy family,

But with them heading home.

As a commentator says, “…for the moment, people will return to the ordinary

circumstances of their lives

but living with a new expectancy and confidence in the fulfillment of God’s


May we live this expectancy friends

Jesus has come, Emmanuel, God with us

May a new name spring forth!


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First Presbyterian San Anselmo is a progressive, inclusive Christian community blessed with meaningful worship, people who care for one another, diverse ministries for all ages, and a passion for justice and service.


(415) 456-3713


72 Kensington Road

San Anselmo, CA  94960


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