The Feast of the Name of Jesus
According to Leviticus 12, a male child was to be circumcised on his eighth day. Luke reports when it was time for Jesus to be circumcised, he was named Jesus. This day – January 1 – was not a feast day until the 7th century, and then was associated with Mary. It was not until the Middle Ages that the name of Jesus became connected to this day – based, of course, on Luke 21.
The focus of this celebration is not on Jesus’ circumcision, but on his name [Jesus = Yahweh saves]. For Luke, Raymond Brown suggests (Birth of the Messiah, p 433), the important emphasis here is that naming the baby Jesus “fulfilled the angel’s command in 1.31…” Luke further emphasizes the importance of the name in Acts 4.11-12, when Peter says, “…there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.”
The Sundays of the church year all answer in some way the Christmas question, “What Child Is This?”
The church year tells the story of Jesus. The liturgy tells the story of Jesus. Our lives, shaped by the scriptures, the prayers, the hymns, the Holy Spirit…tell the story of Jesus to the world – the only story that saves us, the only story that finally, ultimately matters.
And so, indeed, “How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds.”
Confession and Forgiveness – omit; include a petition for the forgiveness of sins during the intercessions.
Hymns – use Christmas hymns and hymns that focus on the name of Jesus.
Hymns for during the Gathering or elsewhere, that focus on:
Name of Jesus – ELW 416, 620, 634, 886
Possible Christmas carols – ELW 288, 292, 293; especially for the Gathering – 283, 287, 288.
Out of the mouths of infants and children, your majesty is praised above the heavens.
O Lord, our Lord, who exalted is your name in all the earth.
Grace to you and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
And also with you.
For the Hymn of Praise – use ELW 289 or 270.
Luke 2 – announces that the baby found by shepherds in Bethlehem is called Jesus, the name given by the angel.
Romans – Paul sets this Jesus in the history of prophets who spoke God’s promises and apostles who now speak his name in the world.
Numbers 6 recalls the Aaronic blessing whereby God’s name was put on the Israelites and through which name the people were blessed.
Psalm 8 praises this name of God who bestows on human beings (and we would say, on Jesus, the Son of Man) great honor and dignity.
A Gospel Procession is especially appropriate in the Christmas/Epiphany season. The movement of the procession into the midst of the people may be seen as the Word becoming flesh and dwelling among us. One might surround the Gospel reading with a Sequence Hymn, using ELW 416 or 886. If 416 is used, sing stanzas 1-3 before the Gospel is read and stanzas 4-5 afterward; for 886, 1-3 before, 4-6 afterward.
The Nicene Creed is the appropriate creed during the Christmas season.
The Peace may be introduced:
Unto us a Child is born; unto us a Son is given.
And his name is Prince of peace.
The peace of Christ be with you always.
And also with you.
Offertory – ELW 296, stanza 3 is an appropriate offertory.
Eucharistic Prayer III or XI fits well.
The Invitation to Communion may be:
Jesus Christ is the true bread which comes down from heaven, Emmanuel – God with us.
Lord, give us this bread always.
“Lord, Now You Let Your Servant Go in Peace” is an appropriate post-communion canticle throughout the Christmas-Epiphany seasons.
Blessing – The Lord bless you… from Numbers 6
For the dismissal:
You are called to belong to Jesus Christ. Go in grace and peace to exalt his name in all the earth.
Thanks be to God! Alleluia! Alleluia!