When Starbucks first introduced their system of asking for your name when you order your drink it was loved by some and not by others. Those more private types thought ‘I only want a coffee and now they’re getting all personal!’ And they were right (unless you use a made-up name…!) As well as making it more likely that each client gets the correct drink, it also creates a more intimate coffee experience. In a corporate branded coffee house where most people are anonymous, your name is now called when your order is ready. For many it feels more personal. Such is the power of knowing your name.
When I visited Burundi earlier in the summer I was surprised to meet a man who knew my name. I didn’t think I knew anyone in that small Central African country. But Pascale knew me. And what particularly touched me was that, after many years, he still knew my name. That really got my attention. (If you want to know more about meeting Pascale and the Global Alpha Training trip to Burundi, read my blog entitled A Small Part in Big Plans.)
All this reminds me that names are important. To us. And to God. That’s why the angel uses them in Luke chapter 1. I find it fascinating that whenever angels visit people, they know their name.
So when Zechariah is met by an angel (in Luke 1:5-25) and told that his wife will give birth to a son, the angel greets him with the words, ‘Do not be afraid, Zechariah‘ (v.13). And when the angel subsequently visits Mary (Luke 1:26-38) to tell her that she will give birth to ‘the Son of the Most High’ he calls her by name: ‘Mary’ (v.30). Not only does the angel bring reassurance to both Zechariah and Mary; he also wants them to know that God knows them. Personally. By name.
I must have seen this before but never really noticed its significance. I’d also glossed over the fact that the angel is specifically named in both passages: he is Gabriel. He also knows the name of Zechariah’s wife – Elizabeth – and he is very particular that her baby to be born should be called John. Similarly Mary is told that her son is be called Jesus and that her cousin – who is named by the angel as Elizabeth – is expecting.
All this naming reminds me that God knows us well. Intimately. Totally. He sees everything. And knows everything. Because he knows our name, he is personal and wants to be intimately and intricately involved in our lives.
This God whom Luke wants us to know is a God who is real, present and close. He knows about our world and he knows about our lives. My life. And yours. And in the same way that he called Zechariah and Mary to do things that would make a difference in the world, he does the same today. He calls people into his service. By name.
What an honour and privilege to serve the God who not only made the whole universe, but knows us personally – by name.