Saturday, December 31, 2016

Year A, The Name of Jesus, Yĕshúa

Peace Lutheran, Otis Orchards, WA

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ.  Amen



These were the names that kept rolling off her tongue that night.
Joseph had long since fallen asleep.
The shepherds had left and returned to their flocks.
The midwives that had helped Mary were gone.
And Joseph’s cousins, who had given them shelter for the night, were back in the house, fast asleep with their children.
Mary lay there,
Cradling her child in her arms.
Stroking his brow.
Feeling the tender touch of his fingers wrapped around hers.
And, as mother’s do, gently caressing Jesus’ face and body, unable to stop touching him who was still so very much a part of her.


A formal Hebrew name.  Joshua.  A bit old fashioned Mary thought.  But it was Joseph’s favorite.
THE LORD is Salvation” is what the name means.
Not that Mary spent much time dwelling on the meaning of that name.
But as she lay there with her little one, she remembered the stories of her people about Yĕhôshúa
Joshua was the faithful one.
He was one of the twelve spies, Mary remembered, that Moses had sent into Canaan to survey the situation there.  This was the land God had promised to Abraham their father.
It was to this land that Moses had led the people.
Most of the spies were skeptical when they returned from Canaan.  It was not as though the country was unoccupied.  The people of Canaan were many.
Their armies were strong.
And their cities were fortified.
How would Israel stand a chance of conquering this land?
But Joshua would have none of it.
With God all things are possible. 

Yĕhôshúa, Mary thought. My little Yĕhôshúa.

The faithful One. Trust in THE LORD.

Mary remembered how Joshua had stepped up after Moses died.
It was Joshua that led the people of Israel across the Jordan into Canaan. 
“Choose this day whom you will serve.” He had said.
Choose this day whom you will serve.
“As for me and my house, we will serve THE LORD.”
As for me and my house, we will serve THE LORD.

Mary had thought about these words ever since she found out that she was pregnant.
Her first thought was “how can this be?” when that man told her she was pregnant.
“How can this be?”, she thought.
And who is this man?
But if she was pregnant it must be God’s will.
"Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word."
It was her aunt Elizabeth that had convinced her that this man was indeed an angel of the Lord.
It was Elizabeth that got so excited when Mary told her what the angel had said.
“Mary, don’t you understand?”  “The Messiah!”
This child within you will be the Messiah!  Our King.


A King.Yĕshúa

That sounded better to Mary. Not as formal as the name Yĕhôshúa.  Yĕshúa, Yĕshúa, Yĕshúa
She couldn’t stop saying his name.
Yĕshúa, a shortened version of Joshua, more familiar, more endearing, Jesus, is how we say it today.
Oh my little Yĕshúa will you be a King?
Perhaps we should have named you David, the beloved One.
Could it be that her little baby would be a King like David, who would be adored by all his people?

Just then Jesus, who had been nursing, pulled away from his mother’s breast, and she looked into his eyes.
Softly, she began talking to him as though he understood.
“Let me tell you about your grandfather, David.” She said.
He was a shepherd boy, like that one who was here tonight.
She told him about how Samuel had anointed David to be King.
She told him about how David, when he was still a young boy, volunteered to go up against the giant Goliath. Just a shepherd boy with a sling, and he defeated the Philistine, Goliath.

Oh my little Yĕshúa will you be a King?

Brave and strong like David?
Mary paused and thought for a while what it must have been like to live in Israel when David was King. Every enemy David faced was defeated. Never had Israel been so proud and so strong. God was with him.
Her eyes caught Jesus’ eyes once again.
And as she looked into his eyes she began to sing a song of David.

“THE LORD is my Shepherd,” she sang, “I shall not want”.
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
my whole life long.”

As she looked at her little Yĕshúa she sang that last verse over and over again.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow you all the days of your life, and you will dwell in the house of the Lord.

Jesus drifted back to sleep.

Mary laid there in silence.
Still unable to sleep.
So much had happened, and though she was exhausted from the journey, and weary from giving birth, the exhilaration she felt as she held her baby prevented her from falling to sleep.

The silence of the early morning hours was broken by a horrible memory.

The day before yesterday, Mary and Joseph had passed through Jerusalem en route to Bethlehem.

Jerusalem was a beautiful city, and the temple was magnificent. The city was bustling with crowds unlike she’d ever seen in their sleepy little village.

But all around them, everywhere they went, were Roman soldiers— a constant reminder that they were not a free people.
Their chariots clogged the winding streets.
They shouted out demands to step aside, get out of the way.
Even at the temple, they stood guard.
It was a relief, actually, when Mary and Joseph left Jerusalem and headed toward Bethlehem. 
But their relief was short lived. 

There in the valley, below the temple, were the soldiers again.
Crucifying a dozen or so men.
Mary shuddered as she remembered the screams of those men, as the nails pierced their bodies.
She tried not to remember the horrific sight of their naked bodies hanging from the crosses.  And the moaning.
There were a few that hung limp and lifeless, having breathed their last.
She had heard that these men were part of a group that had tried to fight against the Romans.  Like Joshua they thought that with God, everything is possible, even driving out the Romans from Jerusalem.

Above their head, written large for everyone to see, were the words
Your messiahs

As Mary remembered the horrors of that day, she held her little baby tight.
“Your messiahs” she thought.
And for a brief moment she was afraid.

What if her little Yĕshúa were to grow up to be a patriot like these men?
What if her little Jesus were to stand up to the Romans and try to drive out the Romans?
And what if one day he too hung on the cross?

“Never!” she thought. “Never!”

Not my Yĕshúa.

Finally, as she kissed his forehead, her heart was once again at peace.
Her thoughts returned to the blessed joy of that moment.
And as the sun began to rise in the east, she drifted off to sleep.

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