Sue Monk Kidd is one of my favorite authors. Years ago she began writing for Guideposts and Weavings: A Journal of the Christian Spiritual Life. Her books include When The Heart Waits, The Mermaid Chair, and The Secret Life of Bees which was made into a movie in 2008.
Sue is from the south and her writing reflects the culture and traditions from that part of the country.
Her most recent book, The Invention of Wings, is about a young slave, Hetty, and her mother, Charlotte, a seamstress who works for a wealthy family in Charleston. At the beginning of the book, Hetty explains that a family who owns a pregnant slave names the baby. However, when the mother looks at her child resting in a basket where slaves babies rest while their mothers work, a name might come to her based on what the baby looked like, on what was happening in the world, or a personality trait the mother noted.
Hetty was given the name "Handful" by her mother. As the story evolves, Handful is shown to be a strong-willed, determined little girl who grew into her mother's perceptions of her character. Hetty is referred to as Handful throughout the book.
Most infants today don't rest in baskets, but in cribs or little seats that rock electronically. Perhaps mothers and fathers today who watch their infants sleep or play get an idea of his or her personality and find a nick-name to call the baby, reflecting what they see in the child. Sometimes nicknames stick and the child is called by this name rather than the given name.
When Jesus was born, we are told Mary laid him to rest in a manger, a container of straw for animals - not the most sanitary place for an infant. When the angel Gabriel came to tell Mary of her pregnancy, Gabriel also revealed the baby's God-given name.
I wonder if Jesus also had a "basket name" or "manger name," given by Mary and Joseph as they watched him during those first days and weeks of life?
Jesus came to be known by many names as his ministry evolved. Just like "Handful" described the personality of one of the main characters in Sue Monk Kidd's book, the names given Jesus by those who wrote the Bible identify his character: "Prince of Peace," "Good Shepherd," "Bread of Life." These names go deeply into Jesus' core and give us metaphorical ways to relate to God's son.
There are over two hundred names for Jesus listed in a recent Google search including the following:
- Lamb of God
- Holy Child
- Alpha and Omega
- Blessed of God
- Bright and Morning Star
"Bread of Life" is my "basket" or "manger" name for Jesus.
For decades, baking biscuits has been one of my favorite activities. When our kitchen table was full with two little girls, I made a batch of biscuits twice a week to accommodate the appetites of our family. Bringing biscuits to others, something I like to do, conveys the love of Jesus and represents the name of Jesus to which I connect.
Sometimes during this holiday seas, you will see a Nativity set in someone's front yard, at church, in a store or in your home. Pause for a moment, and if you can find a small set, hold in your hand the figure of Jesus resting in a manger.
What name of Jesus from the list above do you connect with most?
Why does that name have meaning for you?
How can spending time reflecting on this name deepen your experience of Christmas?
For Your Reflection
- Write your "manger name" for Jesus on a piece of paper. Place the paper in your Bible, on your desk or in a place where you can refer to it during the early months of the new year. What additional thoughts come as you linger with Jesus' "manger name"?
Prayer - Jesus, you came to the world and were placed in a manger. The "Bread of Life" resting in a food bed for animals. However, you come to us in the name we call you, we hold you dear as you hold us close always from our "basket days," to our ending. Amen.