God heals you, saves you. God is with you. That’s all you need to know.
Pr. Joseph G. Crippen
The feast of the Name of Jesus
Texts: Luke 2:15-21, plus references to Matthew 1
Beloved in Christ, grace to you, and peace in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
“Good news of great joy for all the people.” That’s what the shepherds were told.
Today we get the end of the Christmas Gospel from Luke, because Luke only speaks of this day of Jesus’ circumcision and naming in one verse. That’s a short Gospel reading.
But it’s good to recall the shepherds today, and even angels from before today’s reading, to remember something vitally important for you: God’s coming in Christ – a coming that continues to this day – is good news of great joy for you and for all people.
It’s important to remember because it’s easy to get lost in the problems of the world.
On the Fourth Sunday of Advent we heard Gabriel tell Mary that God was with her. But that led Mary to contemplate a huge upheaval in her life, the impact of following God and bearing Christ into the world.
You’re all well aware of that upheaval, the challenge to follow Christ, be Christ, with your life. You know how intricately you’re connected to all God’s creatures, that every moment you could ask, “What’s the Christ thing to do here?” You know well that “sin” is far more than just specific evils or wrongs you do, but extends to harm you might do – even unknowingly to people you’ll never see or meet – by hundreds of random decisions or actions or words each day.
And you truly are trying to follow Christ, asking God’s help. Whether it’s racism or sexism or classism, you’re trying to change biases inside you that are not of Christ. When it comes to injustice and oppression and the pain so many endure, you’re trying to make a difference, make decisions that don’t have negative impacts, put your life into the lives of others. I know you are doing this. I see it all the time.
And it’s exhausting some times. Your spirits are willing, and I know you find joy in it, too. But it is tiring every day, every moment, to think about who and what you are and do because you belong to God.
So for today, the first day of a new year, just be God’s beloved.
Hear the good news of great joy that God’s coming in Jesus is also your blessing and your truth.
You know it from the name the eight-day old infant received: Jesus. “God saves.” Call the baby Jesus, the angel told Joseph, “because he will save his people from their sins.” Or also, “because he will heal his people from their sins.”
Good news: God has come to heal you. Heal you of your sins – all those things you know are sin, things you do, things systems you support do, all the things that grieve you – this baby’s name says that God will heal you, give you new life without that sin.
And God in Christ will heal your heart when it suffers loneliness, loss, grief, and pain. Heal your mind when it’s troubled and anxious, when you can’t seem to get it under control. Heal your relationships that are broken.
God is healing you in Christ and you are God’s beloved. Your work as Christ remains, but let that be tomorrow. Just be God’s beloved today.
Jesus got another name, too – Matthew says he will be called “Emmanuel.”
Which means “God is with us.”
God is with you. Let that be your truth today. Not Mary’s implications, the overturned life of following. That turning will come, but let it come tomorrow.
The deep and abiding truth of Jesus’ coming is the promise that God has come to be with you and is always with you. End of sentence. Full stop.
You are never alone, beloved of God, because God is with you. You are always enough, beloved of God, because God loves you and is with you. You are always beloved of God, because God is with you.
And yes, some days it’s hard to believe this good news, hard to find great joy.
God’s healing sometimes seems to be slow – both in your life and in the world. God’s presence sometimes seems to be hard to find or sense – both in your life and in the world.
But today we celebrate that an eight day old baby is named “God heals and saves” and “God is with you,” and will fulfill that in his life, death, and resurrection. It’s hard to see that truth in an infant. It took some time for that to be fulfilled, even in the Son of God.
But it was fulfilled. And it is true. God saves you, heals you, always. And God is with you, always.
Be at peace. Rest in God’s loving embrace. This is your good news of great joy.
In the name of Jesus. Amen