Your Name That Supersedes All Others

Jan 01, 2023

Sermon 1-1-23
The Name of Jesus
Text: Luke 1:30-33 and Luke 2:21
Pastor Jean M. Hansen
     (Both services) Today, January 1, is all about names, not resolutions, pork and sauerkraut, parades or football, but names. So, let’s start with your name. Please find a blank space on your bulletin, find a writing implement (there are some pencils in the pew racks) and write your first, middle and last name; if you had a different last name before marriage, include that too. At the end, write any shortened version of your name, or nickname, that you use. 
     I asked you to do that because, as I noted, today is all about names. We’ll come back to your name in a bit, but first I want to tell you more about why we are focusing on names. On January 1, eight days after we celebrate the birth of Jesus, the day is designated as “The Name of Jesus” and we acknowledge that one verse (Luke 2:21) which tells us that Mary and Joseph, as faithful Jews, had Jesus circumcised on the 8th day after his birth, according to God’s command, and gave him his name.
     There was no debate about what it would be; nine months earlier the Angel Gabriel came to Mary announcing that she would conceive by the power of the Holy Spirit, give birth to a Son, and name him Jesus. (By the way, the church marks that event on March 25, exactly nine months from December 25). And, so it was; the baby in the manger was given the name that God provided – Jesus.
     One of the interesting things about that name is that it was quite common in first century Judea. In Hebrew the name is Yeshua, or Joshua in English. But when it’s translated from Hebrew into Greek, the original language of the New Testament, it becomes Jesus in English. Whether it is Joshua or Jesus, the meaning is the same: “Yahweh saves” or “the Lord is salvation”. So it is that Jesus’ name spells out his specific mission, to be God’s bearer of salvation for the world. Yet, the commonness of Jesus’ name underscores his humanity and humility.
     The dual significance of Jesus’ name could be thought of in this way, “He was from one angle just another Joshua, and yet, in another sense, he was the true Joshua – the one who would live up to the meaning of the name in ways that no others could.” (1)
         (9 a.m. only) On the one hand, only Jesus has the name that “is above every name,” notes the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Christians in Philippi, but on the other hand the Son of God “emptied himself, taking on the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.” There’s more, while the eternal Son of God humbled himself and became obedient to death on the cross, it also true that at his name – Jesus - every knee should bend … and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord….”
     In response to these contrasts, commentator Doug Bratt notes how much we like “rags-to-riches” stories in which a person with no funds and few prospects succeeds in the world due to creativity, perseverance and luck. Jesus’ story is a “riches-to-rags” (and the back to riches) story. “The eternal Son of God trades in the heavenly realm’s glory for humanity’s poverty and a criminal’s fate, but then gets exalted back to the heavenly realm’s glory.” In fact, he goes on to say, one might even argue that Jesus “gets back” more than he had to begin with. “After all, while it was mostly Israelite knees that bowed before him prior to his incarnation”, the ascended Son of God will one day receive universal acclaim. (2)
     That name to be proclaimed is Jesus, and that name, writes the Rev. Michael Marsh, says that God cares about us; God knows what is happening to and with us; God is not indifferent; God is present, acting in the world and in our lives; and that God loves us. Jesus – the name is, contains and reveals the fulness of God’s life, love and longing.” (3)
     (Both services) What does your name reveal? Take a moment to look at it where you wrote it in your bulletin and consider these questions. First, is there a story about how/why you received your name, as there is for Jesus’ name? For example, my name is Jean Marie Hansen. There are two versions of the story concerning why that’s my name. My mother said she always like the name Jean Marie, and as a teen planned that name for any future daughters. My dad said my name reflected that fact that his middle name was Gene and my Mom’s middle name was Marie. (She probably let him think that.) Of course, the Hansen is my Dad’s Danish families’ name from a long ago son of Hans.
     What about your name? Also, do you like your name now, and did you always like it? If you could have another name, what would it be? After the worship service, pause for a moment in the Kinship Café and ask others one of these questions about their names; it’s a good way to connect with one another as we begin his new year.
     (10:30 a.m.) Discuss the questions at the tables (give permission not to do so), followed by giving an opportunity to share with the larger group.)
     There is, though, one more thing that is vital to recall as we step into 2023; remember that you have a name that is above, under, around and within the one which you wrote and have been thinking/sharing about. This name supersedes your name and says far more about who you are than “Jean” or …. It is “God’s loved and forgiven child”. That’s who you are above all else, thanks to the one whose name is Jesus.  AMEN      
  1. “What is the meaning of the name Jesus”,
  2. “Philippians 2:5-11 Commentary” by Doug Bratt, March 28, 2021,
  3. “Interrupting the Silence: Salty, Doo Doo and Jesus”, by Michael K. Marsh, January 2, 2012,