What’s in a name?

What is the most important word in the English language?

I recently asked this question at our staff Christmas party. The answers were interesting. Words like “please”, “love”, and “sorry” were all suggested.

The answer, at least according to the late, great, Dale Carnegie might surprise you: Your name.

Carnegie once stated, “A person’s name is to him or her the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”

To have someone say our name can make us feel acknowledged, appreciated, comforted and loved.

Names play a big role in the Christmas story.

It is interesting that in the nativity story, when the angel Gabriel comes to Mary, he both calls her by name and emphasizes the name of the child she will bear.

“But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.”

Likewise, when the Lord appears to Joseph in a dream, He calls him by name.

“Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

Christmas can be a joyous time of year, but many also find it difficult.

The weather is cold and snowy, the same five carols blare from every loudspeaker, and beneath the veneer of holiday cheer lies a layer of stress that seems a far cry from “peace on earth.”

Family gatherings, office parties, and fighting the crowds, shopping for that ever-expanding list of gifts, can make one question their own capacity for “goodwill towards men.”

Some find Christmas to be the loneliest time of year. Even surrounded by friends and family, we can still feel alone.

It is easy to look at Mary and Joseph as characters in a story and forget that these were real people, in a real place and time, facing real problems. Real people who felt stressed, and very alone.

By the simple use of their names, and the name of their child and who He would be, God comforted them. Imagine what that must have meant to a carpenter and a young woman in 1st century Judea that God knew their names?

God knows your name, and He is calling us by name to Himself; offering comfort and rest.

It is my prayer this holiday season that you find peace in His name.

On behalf of my colleagues, my staff and my family and myself: a very Merry Christmas to all my constituents, and a blessed new year.