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
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.
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
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
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
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
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!