Day 16 – The Power of Naming from Christa Wiens – 2021

Day 16 – The Power of Naming from Christa Wiens – 2021

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.

Matthew 1:21

It feels safe to imagine that the unborn baby in Mary’s womb had been given plenty of names by the community, as had his unwed mother. People were undoubtedly making assumptions about both mother and child, whispering to each other in not- so-hushed voices about this shameful situation. Joseph, an honorable man, chooses not to engage in the name-calling, but to quietly disappear from the scene, until an angel changes his plans. Not only is Joseph asked to stick around, but he’s also given the opportunity to bestow on this child the name which announces his purpose: Yahweh Saves.

Names have power. Our name connects us with our past, with our family of origin and says something about what others think of us. Many victims of human trafficking are stripped of their name in their exploitation. They are told what their new name is and expected to embody it, leaving behind the life they had and the connections to the people who lovingly chose that name. As a community, we too often name each other as well. We apply labels to people which they struggle to live up under, labels which they adopt as their identity. In my time fighting human trafficking, I have witnessed the evolution of language around this issue. Individuals who were once known as prostitutes were viewed as victims when we learned to see. As our language changed, the victims were allowed to view themselves differently, eventually changing their own labels from survivor to thrivers! I have had the opportunity to watch many of these thrivers step forward into new chapters of life, embracing the identity that God speaks over them and leaving behind names which others attempted to use to limit them.

God, please help me to hear the names you use for me. Show me any labels I need to shed in order to live into the future you see for me. Help me to see others whose labels are keeping them tied to an identity that doesn’t define them. Set us all free, in the name of The One Who Saves, Amen.

Advent Devotions

Christa Wiens

Education Coordinator, Central Valley Justice Coalition