My dad’s side of the family is obsessed with nicknames and uses them religiously. My uncle primarily goes by his childhood nickname (Uncle Doozy), my cousin is referred to by hers (Sweet Pea), and this tradition even continued within my own home. Each of my brothers and I had our own nicknames, including my favorite: my younger brother Andrew was Poundoo Roundoo, affectionately and appropriately named due to his birth size.
Even at age 29, my dad still calls me by my childhood nickname, although we can never agree how to spell it: Peetey. Why am I called that? Totally unsure, and Dad doesn’t know either. But all I know is that names convey relationship, intimacy, and knowledge of the other.
The power of THE Name.
When I think about how incredible it was when God shared his name with Moses at the burning bush (Exodus 3:14), I am so humbled. To know the true, proper name of the Creator of the Universe—something that wasn’t known before this moment—had to have been the most incredible and intimate thing Moses had experienced in his life, something that has been passed to us in 2020 through sacred Scripture.
I’ve been studying some of the names of the Messiah pulled from the book of Isaiah with my high school students. In the Catholic tradition, these messianic names are shared as a part of the “O Antiphons,” prayed at the end of Advent since the eighth century. Some of the names are Adonai, Radiant Dawn, and Emmanuel. And each of these seven “nicknames” of the Messiah give us a greater insight into who Jesus is, especially in relation to the messianic hopes of the Old Testament.
If we begin to understand some of the “nicknames’ of Jesus, we have a better, more intimate understanding of who he is to us as Savior, the better we can appreciate the different ways that the Christ rescued us from the bondage of sin and death.
The power of a name.
When someone knows your name, don’t you feel…well, known? Don’t you feel like that person has some sort of invested interest in you as a person? I started a new job last year, and when my students started calling me by my name, I truly felt like they had accepted me as their own. When I learned their names, I finally had a bridge to build relationships that have since been able to grow.
In fact, God himself made it a point to tell us that He calls us each by our own names, which he uses as a beautiful reminder that we are his sons and daughters (Isaiah 43:1). Why would he point this out directly to us if not to say how important it is that the King of Kings and Lord of Lords knows each one of us intimately and personally based on one of the primary things that identifies us from others: our names?
With that being said, I want to ask you a question.
Do you know the names of your neighbors? Do you know the names of the cashiers you see at the grocery store every week? Do you know the names of the people you go to church with? Do you know the name of your local pregnancy resource center or food pantry? Better yet, do you know the names of any of the folks seeking support and love when they enter those doors?
I challenge you to learn some new names this Christmas season. Learn about the different names of the Messiah, and grow closer to Him. Learn the names of essential workers in your area, and let them know that you are praying for them…by name. Go volunteer at your local pregnancy resource center, learn the name of a client or volunteer, and do a random act of kindness to let them know that someone is thinking about them.
The power of a name.
It really is an amazing gift we can give people this time of year: to feel known and loved. Especially in 2020 when giving hugs and handshakes is currently frowned upon, let’s acknowledge the power of our words and call each other by name as God calls us by ours.