This Sunday is the First Sunday of Christmas. Or, you can go crazy and celebrate the Name of Jesus. Augsburg Fortress and their bulletin covers made the call for me: Name of Jesus it is.
I’m pretty excited, because it turns out that on the Name Day of Jesus you get to read from the book of Numbers! Trust me that this does not happen very often. (Pro Tip: as you might suspect, the book of Numbers is mostly about . . . numbers). This week, we get to hear the Aaronic Blessing, which is used in both Christian and Jewish worship services today. You know the one:
The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;
the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.
So they shall put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.
It’s a good blessing, right? In this blessing (Aaronic because God tells Moses to tell Aaron to say it to the people), God names and claims God’s people. God offers protection, grace, and peace. It’s a real blessing: not just giving permission or good wishes, but doing something for the people who are blessed. Here’s how Frederick Buechner describes it in his Wishful Thinking:
In the biblical sense, if you give me your blessing,
you irreversibly convey into my life not just something
of the beneficent power and vitality of who you are
but something also of the life-giving power of God
in whose name the blessing is given.
In many Christian worship services, we hear this blessing at the end of the service. It sends us out in the knowledge that God goes with us. I think it’s also a good way to start our days, and to start the new year.
So: the Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace. (Yes, you. )
I apologize for the cringe-worthy post title. I just could not resist referencing this 90s classic, even though few of the lyrics are actually, you know . . . ironic.