“Upon the infant’s arrival, the parents do
one of the most important and dangerous things
that will happen to the child:
in wonder and with risk they name him.”
– Martin Marty
It always feels a bit odd at first to hear the name in others’ mouths. For nine months, it has been spoken of in hypotheticals while the child still claims primary home within me; no need for a name for he is so deep within and with me that he was subsumed by my own being.
But the moment he emerges, the name comes from our lips and lands upon him – a blessing which, once spoken, is his to grow into for all the days he is given. It is now his name and his alone.
I remember this feeling with his brothers – the vulnerable exposure I feel as our son’s name becomes settled into the mouths of others. I watch as we each speak it to him in the few awake moments of his first week. I listen as his brothers use it for this new creature in their midst. It is as if we are repeating the blessing over and over again. Each time, it lands upon him but the blessing lingers within us, too. We are speaking a new life into being.
Eventually, the blessing will settle within him. It will grow familiar in our mouths and to his ears. He will turn his head when he hears it spoken. The world will call it and he still stand.
But it is not that time yet. We are still in Advent. The blessing is still fresh and it must be repeated. It must be spoken.
“Speak my name,” his soul demands. “Speak me into being until I am ready and able to claim this named life as my own.”
So it is with God’s hope, with humanity’s arch of justice, with the world’s work towards reconciliation, with our journey towards wholeness. God tells Mary, “Speak my name.” God tells Joseph. God tells the angels. God tells us all, “Speak my name. Speak this Kingdom into being until it is ready to be known, received, and lived.”
Until then, we repeat the blessing and cherish its residue on our lips.