Unwrapped – What’s My Name

Does your name have a meaning and if so what is it?

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Your name or identity is a label that gives you a sense of self image. It defines how you see yourself and in a sense how others see you.

Our name captures our identity and connects us with our past ancestry and our future aspirations.

Last week we looked at how Mary visited Elizabeth and despite Elizabeth’s long wait, she welcomed Mary and blessed her, even though she could have had bile for Mary, because she believed that God was still involved in her life. We pick up the story today at the place where Elizabeth’s baby is born… Luke 1: 57 – 66 The Message (MSG)

For Jews the birth of a child, especially a son, was a blessing from God. Elizabeth had been childless for so long and now had delivered a healthy boy! “On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child” This was practiced by all of Israel’s neighbors except the Philistines. For most cultures it was usually a rite of passage into manhood, but not for Israel. It was instead an initiation rite into the covenant. It was a sign of a special faith relationship with YAHWEH . Each Patriarch circumcised his own sons as priest for his own family. It was so important that even if the eighth day occurred on the Sabbath the ritual was still performed.

What is interesting to me in this story is the role of the relatives, friends and neighbors. Notice how the dynamic of the neighbors here. The neighbors once upon a time had called Elizabeth barren, because when the angel speaks to Mary, he refers to Elizabeth and says: 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. In other words if the name Elizabeth was mentioned, and someone asked which Elizabeth, everyone would say, the one who is unable to conceive…

In any gathering, people come for all sorts of different reasons. I recently attended a wedding and found that some of the people I was expecting to see did not come for the service. I learned later that they came for the reception. And some one even informed me that those on the after party list are also a select set of guests. People come to weddings for all sorts of reasons…. For the girls on the line, they are hoping that they will be seen. Ladies in general come for the show, to display and to see…some come to see the bride… others, what kind of man she got…. others say “wa, he finally got married”, some relatives come to see if anything will go wrong,  some come to eat, and so forth.

similarly, the neighbors probably had many different reasons for coming, even though the passage says the neighbors see that God has overwhelmed her with mercy and they come to celebrate…Most likely some of them were well meaning and came to give advice to Elizabeth on the care of the child, but perhaps, some of them did not come to see the baby, maybe they came to see this old lady who had had a baby; perhaps some came to see if this was really Zachariah’s baby…

…. the challenge arises when these same relatives, friends and neighbors attempt to influence the name of the newborn. From this perspective of the different motives that people come with…. it is not surprising to see that these guys had no clue that God is doing something different. Their perspective is informed by their culture and traditions and by the way things had always been done. So much so to the point that they almost misnamed the child.

If they had had their way they would have named him Zachariah and imposed on him the expectation that he be like his father. The neighbors, friends and relatives almost failed to recognize God’s special presence and divine purpose in the life of the baby.

            In the end, when Zechariah gives the name of the baby and miraculously begins to speak after months of silence, these neighbors, family, and friends recognize God’s special presence and divine purpose in this conception and birth, because they say, clearly God’s hand is in this.

Here is John whose destiny is to be a forerunner for the ministry of what Jesus is coming to do. John’s role was to be a prophet who would announce Christ. The neighbors, friends and relatives came with a mindset that this name ‘John’ is not in our family. But Zachariah had clearly heard from God that John was to present the offer of salvation to God’s people and his name was based on his role. People have no clue what God is doing in your life! You yourself have probably misinterpreted your experiences…Regardless of their original misunderstanding the neighbors go away convinced that the hand of God is in this thing.

And this Christmas , despite your experiences of 2014, despite your interpretations and other people’s misinterpretations of you and of what God is doing: God is with us and HE has a plan and purpose for us. In other words as you take stock of the year, you cannot afford to overlook the fact of God’s presence, power, and plan for each individual. (Matthew 11:11 Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.)

Make no mistake, people have no clue what God is doing in your life. You dare not make the mistake of allowing them the opportunity of defining what  God is doing in your life and mine. My one point in this message is that despite people’s assessment of you, and even your own assessment of yourself: God Is With Us and He Has A Plan And Purpose For Our Lives.

Where else in the world do we see people attempting to define others?

Particularly in the choice of career: Mum, I want to be a rapper. There are those who have made lots of money out of rapping but this woman does not see how her child can be a rapper.

What would Churchill’s parents have said if he had told them he wanted to be a stand up comedian? He says his mother always asks him umeshapata kazi? (have you found employment?)

 This Christmas the easiest thing to do would be to fail to recognize God’s special presence and divine purpose in our own lies.

The reason is because, many of us in the course of this year have gone through experiences that have attempted to define us. You name it, court cases, illness, divorce, financial set backs… perhaps people around you have said you should just consider having a child, because you know how men are anyway…As a single parent, people may see inadequacy in your marital status…. Perhaps your experiences have left you dented and daunted.

And in addition, well intentioned, and well meaning people will offer all sorts of interpretations, their two cents worth, about your circumstances, based on their assessment of you, their experience of you. perhaps people have attempted to define you…by now you should have been having this and that. The society and people around us expect us to operate at a particular level and at times we feel we have to fake it to fit in. What limits them is that they come from certain existing paradigms. Perhaps on the basis of where you come from in terms of your natural family, people have been pegged and categorized a certain way.

What we fail to understand is that Christmas is an invitation to the plan and purpose of God for our lives…. And in this plan and purpose, the  way things unfold defies the understanding of neighbors, the expectations of family, friends, employers, cultures, trends and the society in general. People don’t understand how great this plan is because they are operating from the known to the unknown. And we know very little.

Who defines who we really are? What is your god given identity? Very few people know us for who we are. If we look at the names and titles the angel gave to Jesus, we can get a further idea of our identity and significance.  See Luke 1: 26-32

This Christmas many of us need to remember God has called you to something awesome….  You can miss it in the “nyama choma”, in the celebrations, in the crazy Christmas offers or in the disappointment with regard to your experiences this year. We need to recognize who we are. You are the son or daughter of a king … God is with you and He has a plan and purpose for you. Your story is not just a human story, it is a God story.

Two applications for this message. Some of you are listening to me and you are saying. Okay so God is with me and has a plan for me, but where is the evidence that God is at work?

First: Take stock of the things you can be proud of and celebrate in 2014. As you reflect there is a great deal that you could not have done in your own strength. These things were because of him. Even in the face of obstacles, disappointments and discouragements God is at work.

The second application point ….

SHED OFF:  Shrug off the names that people have tried to give you. You are not what others have said that you are… you are a son of a king or the daughter of a king. This is your identity. Are you stuck in the wrong place because of everyone else’s expectations about who/where you were supposed to be? All these people who come have their own agenda, but it is God’s agenda that defines you.What has God said about who you are…

Remember, God Is With Us and He Has A Plan And Purpose For Our Lives.

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2 Responses to “Unwrapped – What’s My Name”

  1. John Kavoi Says:

    Thanks Be To God As I Take Stock For 2014 I Found That Have One Reason To Celebrate This Christmas I Went Through An Experience Of Mizizi. {GOD’S PURPOSE} Now I Am Afearless Infuencer.[Mavuno Church A Home Of The Fearless]

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  2. This year has particularly been difficult for me, but i believe this sermon was just meant for me because i have got to recognize that through it all, my story is not a human story but a God story…..i will stop looking at this year as a wasted time and effort coz I know that my mess is a message, my scars are stars! Thanks

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