It’s Sunday morning, New Year’s Day, and for the first New Year’s ever, I’m not exhausted from a late night party. Chris and I rang in 2012 with an early dinner with new friends at our home. They left and we sat outside in the backyard, talking at the table. Then, it was 10:45 and, one day home from the East coast, we decided to call it 2012 when our Philly friends did.
We pulled Times Square up on the internet, watched the ball drop, kissed, and uploaded a video of us to our east coast friends (together at a party where we would have been ruling the karaoke microphone).
Then, we read in bed. It was the earliest we’d gone to sleep in weeks.
The next morning we gobble french toast, dress children and make it to church in time for August to break down to his teacher about how he “hates church!” and just wants to “stay at home with Mama and Daddy!” I’ve barely made it into the service 15 minutes late (after nursing Brooksie) to get a text calling me to August’s classroom. We talk. I let him hold his blanket (which, thankfully, had been left in my bag) and the boy calms down enough for me to leave.
Did you know New Year’s Day is also “The Feast of the Holy Name” in the Christmas season? It’s when we celebrate the naming of Christ: Jesus, the Greek equivalent of Joshua, “God saves.” This child come to rescue us.
This is our first time back since Advent, when most of our songs in worship were those of waiting (“O Come, O Come Emmanuel”). Once Christmas Eve hits we’re finally allowed the Christmas hymns we’ve been longing for all December. It’s a joy to recount the holiness of the manger scene, the violent chorus of the angels, the minor-toned tale of the Wise Men and their gifts.
I’m thinking about August back in his classroom, wondering if it was a good decision to let him keep his blanket, picturing him running around with his two buddies holding that blankey, worrying that I’ve set a new precedent that I won’t be able to undo, when I recognize we’re singing “Hark the Harold Angels Sing.” And across the aisle to the left, a man is raising his hand to heaven. This man is raising a hand that owns only four fingers, a hand that from birth has been a burden in his life. This man born without thumbs but who has used his pointer as a thumb for so long that it has actually taken on a thumb shape.
That hand is raised and I stare. Then I listen to the words he’s responding to. The words falling off my tongue haphazardly, amidst the words of my mind: the worries of the moment, the anxieties that shadow everything else. Am I a good mom? Am I ruining my kid? Will the other kids think he’s weird for having his blankey? Is he weird?
And the man, the congregation, me-we’re singing “Peace on earth and mercy mild!” We’re singing, “God and sinners reconciled!” We’re singing “Gloria!” in whole notes and the man has raised his hand to heaven.
Look at me, Lord. I pray. Look at my hands, whole, but my heart so fractured and full of fear and doubt.
The infant is named Jesus because he came to save us. Because, look at the angels, they are singing over the hills in a majestic performance for the likes of some shepherds. “Glory to God in the highest.”
They sing, “peace on earth” and they believe it is coming. This peace.
Our hands raised. All of us born in need of restoration.
Today is a day for naming what is true, naming what has come for us. And our Rescuer has a name.