Friday, December 11, 2009

Advent, Day 13: Baby names.

Today's reading: John 15:1-8

I am the vine; you are the branches. (John 15:5)

This text is still a favorite of mine after spending a year of women's ministry exploring it during our time in London several years ago. I could go on and on about it... our vineyard field trip, traipsing through the vines on a hillside in rural England, learning how and why the vinegrower would prune, and what would influence the quality and flavor of the fruit (and then sampling some of the resulting wines--for educational purposes only, of course). And one of our craft activities, making thumbprint grape clusters with every member of our group represented in the print, a wonderful visual reminder of the community abiding in Christ.

But tonight the correlation between the vine and the Advent season seems elusive. (Maybe I'll come back to this when something earth-shattering occurs to me!)

But after this week of "I am" texts at Following the Star, what strikes me is what a vast array of identities that little baby in the manger was called to assume. When we were choosing names for our children, the meaning of names was really important to me... I wanted my sons' names to have good definitions and good stories behind them. Mary and Joseph didn't have to buy baby naming books; they were handed their child's name: little Emmanuel or Jesus (Yeshu'a, a shortened form of the name Joshua, which means "Yahweh is our salvation") had plenty to live up to in his God-given name.

Mary and Joseph could not possibly have known that their little son would grow into his name, "God With Us," by defining in himself the many ways that God is with us. In a distinct echo of God's self-definition to Moses, Jesus lived into the "I AM"-ness of Yahweh. He didn't just become like... He Became, full stop. He Is Word (creation, wisdom), He Is Bread (nourishment, life), He Is Light (truth, glory), He Is the Good Shepherd (protecting, guiding), He Is the True Vine (abiding, fruit-bearing).

Mary and Joseph could not have known how important all his names would be to his role as God's Self on earth, and to peoples' understanding of his life and ministry. These most common items, endowed with holy purpose by One who came in to the world by holy means, yet in the most common way.

It seems like a lot to live with for a tiny Christmas baby... but in one life's journey from the manger to the tomb--to the risen Son--to the eternal Christ--it is all absolutely imperative. It is imperative that the God who is With Us Still be as familiar to us as the most everyday elements of our being... and it is imperative that the God Who Saves Us Still be as good, as gracious, and as glorious as the very Source of all being.

During this season of Advent, may we abide with the One who came to earth to walk with us, and who is with us still in every step we take. May we live up to our own naming as his beloved children.

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