This Advent season, I’m embracing waiting for all it’s worth. It is our constant posture now as we wait not only for a coming Christ, but also for this little babe who will join us early in 2012. I can empathize with Mary as she arches her back, lifting her soul to the Lord, a bodily offering, though there is of course much of Mary’s journey that is so unfamiliar to me. One thing that God had already given her: a name for her babe. Of this, I am lacking.
Oh, the responsibility of naming another person! I felt the weight of this with each of the previous two. We still have some time — I’m not yet full term, and I often excel under pressure. This time, I find that it is even harder: there are more criteria that we are trying to meet. A name can be something that shapes a bit of a person, something to grow into, or live up to. My mother has been known to say that when she named me “Campbell” she knew that I couldn’t possibly grow up to be a stripper. There is jest in that, of course, but she was aware of the power she wielded.
Biblically speaking, God gives Adam the power of naming in the garden of Eden, and with it the responsibility of stewardship. Quite often, God changes a person’s name as that person takes on a new identity, seeking after God’s heart, or conquering Godly challenges. Many of the names in the bible mean things: great things, funny things, images of time or place or instance to call upon later. My understanding of Native American culture and history seems to point towards a similar naming philosophy. Names were earned by personality trademarks, by victories or follies. Though our culture of naming is very far from these literal, formative and reflective naming traditions, these traditions continue to remind me of the power of Name.
Mostly, at least in my circle of community, parents choose names because they like them. Sometimes there is inheritance in a name, a grandfather’s name being passed down, a son being made a junior. Just as often, I hear names from popular culture that seem to stick. Characters from hit movies are just as likely to be the reason behind a name. Some families find a letter of the alphabet and stick with it. Other families search out great nicknames, allowing for flexibility, perhaps, a name to be adapted to stages in life, or individual desires. (In our family? No nicknames, please).
We try on names for our babes — what does it sound like bellowed in scolding throughout the house? How about cheered on the soccer field? Whispered in Holy prayers of thanksgiving, desperation? Especially as we ready ourselves for Babe #3, I am wondering how well it goes with the other names in our family. Of course there was a time when I was uncertain about their names, but now they seem so set, so firm in character and a defining aspect of our family, that it is equally important for this third child’s name to be a part of that puzzle, too. And of course we can’t forget how this name with work with our last name. See what I mean? There is such a list of criteria that accompanies this responsibility.
When each of my Little Ones were born, we had a few names that were in the running. It wasn’t until the afterglow of birth, the joyous occasion of meeting, face to face, this person I had been feeling within me for such long months, that we could settle on a name. I’m certain that this will be our experience for this babe as well.
We wait on a coming Christ: He of endless names. We will press in to this season of waiting, of anticipation. Each moment of waiting is holy. We will unfold each door of the Advent calendar, a secret revealed, as we draw closer to the celebration of His coming. We wait for our own babe, too: we grow quiet in our waiting, and this little babe will begin to reveal his secrets. And with joyous celebration, he will have a name.