New Year's Day: What's in a name ?


Lord God, as we look ahead to the year ahead,

we do so with wonder and praise,

knowing that whatever the year brings You will be with us,

knowing that however lost we get you will find us,

knowing that you will be by our side.

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

If you know your classics, you will have recognized these iconic lines from Shakespeare’s lyrical tale of young love: Romeo and Juliet. And as a matter of fact everything is in the names of Romeo and Juliet.

Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet meet and fall in love, but their love and budding romance is doomed from the starts because of their names; they are members of two warring families.

Juliet tells Romeo that a name is just an artificial and meaningless convention, and that she loves the person who is called “ Montague” not the Montague name or the family. Romeo on his behalf and out of his passion for beautiful Juliet, rejects his family name and vows to deny his father and family and instead be baptized new and renamed as Juliet’s lover.

What’s in a name ?

A lot. A name has meaning, history, tradition, and limitations. Just think about your own name. Your given name and your family name. The given name has been given to us by our parents and is a personal name,  and our family name has been given by our family history and reminds us of belonging, family and history.

Ever since God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air and brought them to the man to see what we would call them, and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name, as we read in Genesis…. Ever since we have engaged in the holy business of naming. We name everything and everybody. We name everything from pets to boats to books, to days and months and seasons… to the most precious to our hearts: our children.

When Soren and I were expecting our first child, we did not want to know the gender of the child. So we had to names ready: the pink Anna and blue Kristian. And when Kristian was born, he was Kristian from the moment, we looked at him and he looked at us - blessed our lives.

When we were expecting our second child, we again had two names ready: the pink Anna and the blue Mads. And the moment Mads was born, he was Mads as we looked at him and he looked at us, and he blessed our lives.

As parent, we choose names that we like; names that mean something to us; maybe strong and fond memories of people who bore that name too. As parents, we chose good names for our children even if I often when I had to learn to read and write, wondered why my parents gave me the long difficult unusual name Anne-Grethe!

What’s in a name ?

We grow into our names and we become our names and find our identity in our names. So with time the boys grew into their names and identity, just as we all did.

 While we as parents were naming our children, they were naming us too: Mom and Dad/ mor og far. And with time we, the parents, also grew into our names and identities as parents.

What’s in a name?

All 3 readings this New Year’s morning reflects on names and the questions “what’s in a name ?”

1.    The name God instructed Moses and Aron to put on the people was beautifully unfolded in the old Aaronic Blessing: The Lord Bless you and keep you.  A blessing that conclude each service in church as the blessing and sending of us as God’s people. With this ancient benediction, we begin each week as we today begin each year, under the name of God and marked by his holy name.

2.   In St. Paul’s letter to the Galatians we are called and named the Children of God…. And thus we can and may call God “ Abba” the most beautiful name: Father. We do pray our Lord’s Prayer at every service too – and we believe in God as our Father with everything good that this name reflects.

3.   And finally, in the Gospel of this New Year’s Day and morning, - we hear about the name that had been given by the angel and now was to be confirmed after eight days at the circumcision; Jesus was his name.

These readings today manifest that we besides our given names and our family names, also carry other names: we are children of God and we are followers of Christ, and thus Christians.

These readings today also manifest what’s in God’s name: that he is our Father and he is the one who sees us, keeps us and blesses us each and every day of our lives. And with the beautiful old blessing the name of God is put on us, drawn upon us, yes it shines upon us as a sign of peace and faith.

This name marks us and our lives – and does not only set us free, but set us free to live as God’s Children.

As it was said to Abraham when he entered the promised land: I will bless you so you can be a blessing.

So what’s in a name ? There is so much more than just the letters of the name: there is history, choice, circumstances, love, blessing and a calling to live up to that name.

We will sing the hymn: We are called ….

We are called to act with justice, we are called to love tenderly, we are called to serve one another, to walk humbly with God.

What’s in our Christian name? There is a blessing and a calling.

Thus we begin a New Day and a New year: with our name and our calling. And as we are blessed and seen and send by God, we will look into the days of the New Year with hopes and expectations as Abraham did and we will as him be blessed to be a blessing.

And with the wise words of Albert Einstein let us:

Learn from yesterday, live for today and hope for tomorrow.