Good morning everyone! Happy birthday to my grandma Helen!
Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him Zechariah after his father. But his mother said, ‘No; he is to be called John.’ They said to her, ‘None of your relatives has this name.’ Then they began motioning to his father to find out what name he wanted to give him. He asked for a writing-tablet and wrote, ‘His name is John.’ And all of them were amazed. Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue freed, and he began to speak, praising God. Fear came over all their neighbors, and all these things were talked about throughout the entire hill country of Judea. All who heard them pondered them and said, ‘What then will this child become?’ For, indeed, the hand of the Lord was with him.
I have a name. My full name is Courtney Elizabeth McHill. It carries a lot of meaning for me. My first name is Courtney. My parents tell me they chose it because it is a strong woman’s name. I carry that around with me. It is also an English name (meaning “of the courts”) and I have very strong English roots. That is carried with me as well. I grew up being called “cortina” by my mother. I was very proud of that name until I took Spanish in high school and realized my mother had called me “curtain” all of my life…she knew better, she is a Spanish teacher. But she thought and thinks its cute and I have come back to that conclusion as well and claim it.
My middle name is Elizabeth and it connects me to grandmothers past in past generations. My middle name connects me to who I come from, other strong women. My parents tell me that I was almost Courtney Mary (to connect me to my grandmother Helen who is Helen Mary) but it sounded too “nunnish.” I kind of agree and am glad they stayed with Elizabeth.
My last name is McHill. We pronounce it “Mac – Hill.” This has always caused some controversy even in the McHills that I am related to. I have cousins that say “Mic – Hill.” But we still with the Mac version because it connects us to my grandfather who said Mac. It is a scottish last name that means “of the hill.”
All of these names carry meaning and purpose and connect me to roots of some sort. Our names mean something to us and whether we like them or not, they connect us to something and to some identity. My name connects me to who I am and who I want to be. It has been fascinating to me to watch friends have babies and name their children. This is a huge responsibility! You get to actually give a name, almost give a bit of identity, to this child. It is so huge of a responsibility that many cultures have whole rituals around naming a child. This is a big deal. And you don’t want to get too crazy with that name because you don’t want your kid to get made fun of…but you want the name to be unique enough…and solid enough…and meaningful…and connected….phew, lots going on with what a name could be.
And then I think about my grandmother who turns 92 today and what her name will mean in years to come and who will get to receive her name.
And then my heart gets heavy as I think of the names of the deceased from yesterday and what name their parents cry out…all holding a person attached to them. Everyone has a name. Everyone is claimed by a name.
And then I think of John. Who was given a name, not by family or by culture or by what was popular or not, but by God to stand apart to be the messenger. Both Elizabeth and Zechariah agreed to this name because it was a name ordained by God to mark their son.
We all are named and claimed and we are all children of God. Take a moment today to ponder your name, all that is connected with it. Remember who gave you that name and then name others today to pray for and remember, to connect with and lift up. Pray for the names you do not know in the grief that happened yesterday and pray the names that you give great joy to. Amen.