1 January 2011

Luke 2:15-21

"And he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb." (v. 21)


Today many Christians commemorate the 'Naming of Jesus', to coincide with his circumcision on the eighth day as recorded in Luke's Gospel. 

But our passage begins earlier, with Luke's account of the shepherds coming to Bethlehem to see the child lying in the manger, as the angels foretold (verse 16). It is characteristic of Luke (in contrast with Matthew) that the good news should be shared first with the humble and poor represented by the shepherds (cf Isaiah 61); and also that they should go to Bethlehem the city of David, who represents both the great king of Israel and a one-time shepherd. 

Characteristic too is his observation that Mary "treasured all these words" and "pondered them in her heart" (verse 19). We are aware from what comes later, when Mary meets with Simeon and Annafurther on in this chapter, that there will be other words which will challenge, as well as comfort her, concerning the birth of her son. 

Jesus' circumcision follows on the eighth day (verse 21) in accordance with the Jewish law. His name is the one which the angel gave to Mary along with the promise of his birth (Luke 1:31). 'Jesus' is the Greek form of the common Hebrew name 'Joshua' which means that 'God saves' (although Luke, unlike the other Gospel writers, does not draw out the meaning of his name). However, it may be significant that in Luke, even the naming of Jesus takes place in such a way as both to fulfil the Jewish law and speak to a wider audience. 

To Ponder

Do you think of Christmas as 'good news for the poor'? Why?

How far do our Christmas celebrations help to make this real?

What's in a name? What do we make of the names which we have been given - and the names we give to others?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Stephen Wigley

Stephen Wigley is a Methodist minister currently serving as chair of the Wales Synod. He is married to Jenny, a priest in the Church in Wales, and they have two teenage sons, David and Andrew.