Wednesday, December 15, 2004

WHAT IS YOUR NAME? A Christmas Memory

It was a beautiful christmas Eve with light snow falling. I was happy to be with my brother and his family as we headed to their church for Christmas Eve services. The church was small and modern in decor and rather stark. A single poinsettia plant was the only decoration in the front of the church near the altar. I do not recall the music, but it was not usual carols and Christmas hymns. It seemed a little strange to me since my church always had a tree decorated with Chrismons and evergreen garlands in various places.

The pastor began to read from scripture as follows from the book of Genesis 32:

24But Jacob stayed behind by himself, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. 25When the man saw that he couldn't get the best of Jacob as they wrestled, he deliberately threw Jacob's hip out of joint. 26The man said, "Let me go; it's daybreak." Jacob said, "I'm not letting you go 'til you bless me. 27The man said, "What's your name?" He answered, "Jacob." 28The man said, "But no longer. Your name is no longer Jacob. From now on it's Israel (God-Wrestler); you've wrestled with God and you've come through." 29Jacob asked, "And what's your name?" The man said, "Why do you want to know my name?" And then, right then and there, he blessed him.

I am thinking that this is the strangest choice of scripture I have ever heard for a Christmas service. What happened to the "and it came to pass in the days of Ceasar Agustus?"

The pastor continued talking about Jacob wrestling with the angel and the question of what is your name? He explained that in those days, only those with a close relationship to a person called them by name or even knew their name. He asked what name could we apply to ourselves. Could we call our selves "good" since surely there are times we are good. However, since there are also times when we are not good it really would not be a name we could claim. Could we call ourselves "generous", because often we are generous, but then again there are times when in fact we are not generous. How about "loving?" Certainly we are loving to those in our family and circle of friends. Are we loving to all strangers and those whose lifestyles offend us? Not always, so we really can not claim loving to be our name.

This pastor was an outstanding speaker and even though I felt the message was strange for Christmas eve, my attention never drifted.

The pastor continued to suggest positive attributes we could claim as our name but always found a reason why we really did not live up to the image implied by that name. He finally came up with the word "sinner" and elaborated on the many ways in which that truly described us and why we could justifiably claim that as our name. We all fall short. None of us is continually good, generous, loving or any other adjective he spoke of. Yes, sinner is definitely what we are. Sin is what we so often do even though we would choose not to do so. We try and we fail to live the type of life that would be pleasing to God in everyway. We are sinners! That is the name that best describes us. Our name is sinner. We could not claim any other name.

Because a baby born in Bethlehem was the Son of God sent to earth so many years ago to suffer and die for our sins, your name is no longer sinner, you are REDEEMED! Amen.

This Christas Eve was about forty years ago and this particular message has never left my memory. I continue to appreciate the reading from Luke each Christmas. I prefer the King James Version since this is what I learned in my childhood. I have many happy memories of Christmas spent first with my parents and siblings and those spent with my husband and son. I have attended many Christmas Eve services and have listened to many well thought out sermons, but this particular one will remain my favorite. I am REDEEMED!

1 comment:

  1. That is a wonderful Christmas memory. Thank you for sharing it.