January 7, 2016

Nativity: January 7, 2016


he was named Jesus,
the name given him by the angel
before he was conceived in the womb”
(Luke 2:21)

“Jewish parents customarily name their male children on the day of their circumcision, the eighth day after birth.” [28] In the Hebrew culture a name was important. It revealed something about your identity. A name revealed some characteristic about your birth, or a hope for your future. A name articulated the essence of who you were. Thus, often time because of this, names were changed by God. Abram is renamed Abraham because will become a “Father of Nations.” Jacob is renamed Israel because he “struggles with God.” Even Simon is renamed Peter because is the “rock” upon which Christ builds His Church. “In addition to the circumcision, Luke expressly mentions the naming of the child (2: 21) with the name that had been foretold— Jesus (God saves)— so that from the circumcision, the reader’s gaze is opened up toward the fulfillment of the expectations that belong to the essence of the Covenant.” [29] “The Greek name I─ôsous is equivalent to the Hebrew name Joshua (Yehoshua'), meaning ‘Yahweh saves’. It was a popular name among first-century Jews. Even greater than Joshua, who led Israel into the Promised Land (Sirach 46:1), Jesus leads God's people into the eternal land of heaven (25:34; cf. Hebews 4:1-11). Greater also than David (2 Samuel 3:18), Jesus will save his people from their sins, not from their national enemies (i.e., the Romans).” [30] Merry Christmas, the baby in this Christmas story will one day become a man, and He will save us from our sin. God has come. God has come to save us; God has come to rescue us.

Paul was a great evangelist because he knew both the message of salvation as well as the heart that needs salvation. In Romans 7:15 he writes, “What I do, I do not understand. For I do not do what I want, but I do what I hate.” Ever been there? Do you know how this feels? We each long for God; however, far too often we do not choose Christ. Instead we choose sin, we do the things we hate. Paul knew his inner confusion. Perhaps you know a similar confusion: you want God, you desire holiness; however, you continue to do the very things that contradict your longing for God. Perhaps we all know what it’s like to feel as if you are a slave to sin. We’ve all been there.

“Man’s freedom is limited and fallible. In fact, man failed. He freely sinned. By refusing God’s plan of love, he deceived himself and became a slave to sin.” [30] The fall in Genesis 3 affected us all. Because of the fall, we were enslaved to sin. I was enslaved; you were enslaved. Being enslaved is like being trapped. There is no way out. We can’t do it alone. We have to be rescued. Fr. George Aschenbrenner, S.J. helped me understand the difference between escape and rescue. Escape means you escape, you find your freedom. Rescued is different. You have to be rescued. You need an other. You are utterly dependent. Without the other you are trapped … forever. Merry Christmas … and I really mean that today. Merry Christmas, the child has come to rescue you. Consider the significance of Christmas … or life without Christmas: no heaven; no salvation; nothing. Without Jesus, this life, the one you have now, would be it. Our existence would be reduced to the relentless pursuit of pleasure. And, forever—forever—we would be enslaved to sin. Merry Christmas, the child has come to save us, to rescue us.

If we are going to get to know Jesus, care must be taken not to project onto Jesus who we think Him to be or who we want Him to be. We must let Jesus reveal who He is to us. We must let the Scriptures reveal who He is to us. He is not merely a baby. He is not merely a “prophet”. He is not merely a nice guy with encouragements for us to be happy or love each other. Jesus is our Savior. He loves, but His love is fierce for you. His love propels Him to do whatever it takes so that you can be with Him forever. He loves you so much that He is prepared to enter any area of your life where you are still enslaved so that He can rescue you. All you need to do is ask. All you have to do is invite Him in. Be not afraid; trust the process. Can you admit where you need to be rescued? Can you let Him into your heart so that He can rescue you?

For your prayer

The Psalms are the sacred music of a chosen people. The Psalms were written as songs to praise God. Imagine how many people Old Testament Jews prayed Psalm 51. Begin by slowly reading Psalm 51. Read it a few times. Imagine Joseph and Mary considering the significance of Psalm 51 they hand their child to the Rabbi to be circumcised. Now, prayerfully imagine the scene in Luke 2:21. Be in the scene. Be with Joseph. Be with Mary. Be with them as the Rabbi hands them back their son. Imagine the penetrating profundity of Joseph and Mary looking each other in the eyes as the name him Jesus. Now … imagine Mary and Joseph looking at you … in the eyes … and asking you if you need a Savior. They look to you and ask you again to today to hold their son. You open your arms, knowing full well who you’re about to hold … and … 

Today's prayer

“Father, I want to know you. I want a relationship with you. Teach me how to pray. Teach me how to receive. Teach me how to be in relationship with you and how to stay in relationship with you.”

[28] Scott Hahn, Curtis Mitch, and Dennis Walters, Ignatius Catholic Study Bible New Testament, pg. 111
[29] Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives, pg. 80
[30] Ignatius Catholic Study Bible New Testament, pg. 86
[31] Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1739

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