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December 11, 2020 Advent Reflection

Luke 1:59-66

“…they were going to name him Zechariah after his father. But his mother said, “NO; he is to be called John.” Luke 1:60

What’s in a name? Does it tell us something? Maybe it carries some family history…

I’ve been ‘blessed’ with a weird name – Orville. I’ve lived with it for 6 decades now, but it goes back much longer than that - at least 134 years. I was named after my grandfather, who was born in 1888. I was born on his birthday so, although my mother resisted the name at first, family tradition prevailed.

For some reason, recent generations have not carried on the tradition. None of my grandchildren are named Orville! (Funny that! I wonder why?!)

What’s in your name? Does it indicate anything about who you are?

There’s usually a backstory, or a reason; Often a name can carry with it expectations; Elizabeth gave birth to a baby boy, and there was pressure to give him the priestly name of his father, Zechariah. A good name for a Levitical priest, and it would carry the expectation that this boy would follow his father’s career path and be raised as a Levite, the priestly order who served in the temple.

Elizabeth said NO, his name is JOHN. That was a radical break from family tradition.

We who go to church want to say we have the name “Christian”.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a Lutheran pastor in Germany who was arrested for his resistance to Hitler and the Nazi’s. In prison he struggled with his identity, and his spiritual confidence. He came to question his faith and his sense of self. He wondered if he was worthy of the name ‘Christian’.

His jailers and fellow prisoners told him they saw a man of God who was cheerful, confident, kind. But he knew another identity –

“restless and longing and sick…powerlessly trembling…

weary and empty at praying, faint and ready to say farewell to it all,

“Who am I? This or the other?

Am I one person today, and tomorrow another?

Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.

Whoever I am, Thou knowest O God, I am thine.”


Our identity is in God.

I think of the baby boy that Elizabeth bore. Like Bonhoeffer, John’s life also ended in a prison cell. He grew up to be ‘John the Baptizer’; A prophetic servant of God, but in a radically different way than his father.

Whatever earthly name we are given, may we claim with confidence the names “Christian’ and ‘ child of God”.

“O Lord, you know me completely,

…For it was you who formed my inward parts;

You knit me together in my mother’s womb.

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Psalm 139

Shared by Orville James


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