The prophet Isaiah speaks of a God who has knowledge of us before we were born. A God who has chosen us to be his messengers of Good News and has given us a name. The giving of the name is important as it is meant to reflect something of the character of the messenger. In the New Testament reading Jesus speaks of making known God’s name, “I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world.” His name is his bond, you can trust him, because you know what he is like. I am reminded of the words of the psalmist, “Some trust in chariots, some in horses, but we will remember the name of the Lord our God.” Such confidence! The name that was once so sacred and could not be spoken, is now available to all – we have access to him through the coming of the Lord Jesus – ‘Emmanuel, God with us.’ Another name carrying much meaning.
God’s presence in our midst changes the kind of relationship we have with him and with each other. This is at the heart of the Good news message we are called on to share. Jesus captures it brilliantly in our New Testament reading. Here we discover a kind of symbiotic relationship – “All mine are yours and yours are mine”. We are deeply mistaken if the kind of relationship we seek with God is so personal and private that we exclude our brothers and sisters around us or indeed as we are in Kent, on the frontier if we exclude our brothers and sisters from another mother!
I am reminded of the quote, “I sought my soul, but my soul I could not see, I sought my God but he eluded me, I sought my brother and I found all three.” The name Emmanuel, which will be highlighted in the Christmas season, captures the kind of relational work that is at the heart of God’s kingdom and which we are called to be engaged in. To do this kind of work, we need to commit to working together not apart. To build the body of Christ together; not to create mini kingdoms according to the numerous labels that that we appear to attach ourselves to.
If we are going to experience that oneness of purpose that Jesus prayed for then we will need to seek to be identified more with the name of Jesus. For too long we have been embarrassed to be associated with him. We have kept him hidden in our beautiful churches and cathedrals that we visit on our terms, for weddings, baptisms, funerals or other such special occasions like Christmas or the mandatory school service. If we are going to ignite the communities from which we come, indeed the county of Kent, then everyone of us will need to reassess our relationship with the name of Jesus.