The Family Name

Over the past 25 years I have sought to research my family tree — the Myrick•Hamilton•Craft trees and the Holifield•Sumrall•Musgrove trees.

I can vividly and joyfully recall as a child, large family reunions with dozens of aunts and uncles and cousins and distant third and fourth cousins, and double first cousins, and … FOOD. Amazing southern fried in Granny’s iron skillet kinda delicacies! O what fun!

With recent family members passing on to heaven, all these memories have been rekindled. And I have enjoyed wonderful conversations with cousins and distant cousins and extended family members. We enjoy a wonderful family legacy and I am grateful.

And with every good conversation, I learn more about the family histories, the dynamics of our blended families, the good, the bad, the [ahem] “shushed” parts — and a few family facts and tidbits that I did not know — that seem to connect•the•dots, so to speak.

All families have secrets and often times, shameful or possibly embarrassing episodes within the family tree. Some of us have failed miserably and brought shame on our Family Name, whether unintentionally by haphazard circumstance, or even willfully to wreak havoc and reap our vengeful reward. How sad and tragic for all our families when this happens.

And then there’s that “cousin Eddie” of Christmas Vacation fame, showing up and showing out at all the most awkward moments in our lives. Heck, I’m sure I’ve been the “cousin Eddie” goober a few times myself!

In the Christmas story of Bible fame, there are two baby boys conceived into the wombs of small town girls … and their epic adventures would literally change the world.

In St Luke’s gospel, we read of Zechariah and Elizabeth discovering that she is pregnant with a child — by an angelic visitation to Zechariah while he is performing his priestly duties. Zech is of the Abijah priestly lineage and Liz is of the Aaron priestly lineage. They’re a couple, on the worship team, so to speak. They are good people, who ‘did all that God had commanded them to do’, and yet they had not been able to bear children. We don’t know if Zech could not produce, or if Liz could not ovulate. The bible story does not get that deep into the weeds — yet.

Now, Zech and Liz are ‘old’, or are getting older based on the story; but, not too old to enjoy intimacy, which could by all imaginations — still produce a child!

So, Zech get’s the angelic announcement at the church house, he’s bewildered, asks the “how and why” questions — and, his mouth is muted. He’s literally dumbfounded. He goes home, dazed and confused, motioning with his hands, and no one could figure out what had happened. Very soon, Liz realizes she’s pregnant and recluses herself to home, suspecting — who knows what!

She’s pregnant.  Zech is ‘old’. The whole town is gonna wonder — umm, how? And, who? And … what the heck?!

So, fast forward, the baby is born.  Elizabeth rejoices.  The whole village rejoices!  God has favored Zech and Liz with a baby in their old age!  But Zech is still ‘mute’ and cannot even speak, yet.  And on the 8th day, as was the tradition, the time for ceremonial circumcision arrived.

Circumcision.  What an awkward word. What a surreal procedure!  And yet, tradition and religious rite have made this ceremony “the sign” of those males who are deemed “good Jews”, or outsider non-Jews, pagans, Gentiles … anything but, the ‘chosen’ of God.  So, they comply with the tradition and with that, the Naming of the child.

So, during the ceremony comes the “naming of the child” segment of the session.  The people, the doctors, the gatherers expected something like “Zechariahson” or “Zechy”, or something after the namesake of his Dad.  But, Liz knew better, because of the angelic visitation, remember?!  And, now Zechariah knew too … because of the angelic visitation.

Liz motions to Zech, then Zech writes on a tablet:  “His name is John”.  And everyone is amazed!  What? How could he?  This is not right?!  You don’t name your child some random name that is not from the family lineage!  What about the legacy?  The dynasty?  The family reputation??

But Liz and Zech knew — his name is JOHN.  And then — ZECH SPEAKS!  Yep, Zechariah’s mouth is finally FREE to speak the praises that have been pent up in his heart for months now!  He knows something. He has “seen” the LORD.  He has experienced a visitation.  He is aware — something’s up. Something BIG.  And, it’s a God thing.  And, he and his son, JOHN, are going to get exclusive VIP seating.  And, it’s going to change their world!  Heck, it’s gonna change everyone’s world!

Scripture in Luke 1 goes on to say that the town folks were fearful (in awe and wonder) of what they had witnessed — this late in life birth, the ceremony, Zech’s “silence”, then, his sudden miraculous praise!

So, what’s in your family name?  What pent up secrets do you know?  What is that unspoken secret that no one will talk about?  What is that praise, or message, or proclamation that YOU need to speak?  What is the promise that YOU need to declare for your family?  Even, if it means breaking with tradition and expected religious ritual?

My family has an amazing and historical legacy and lineage of music, ministry, agricultural prowess, ingenuity, artistic creativity, and mostly — determination and survival.  We survive. Against all odds, we press on.

As I learn more about my Myrick*Hamilton*Craft family on my Dad’s side of the tree, and also about my Holifield*Sumrall*Musgrove family on Mom’s side of the tree — I discover the awe, and the wonder, and the miracle of God’s hand on our lives.  And, at the most unexpected moments.

When all the forces of this fallen world seemed against us — we somehow found the way to WRITE on our tablets and SPEAK or SING from our mouths, the Story of stories.  The promises of our God.  The hopes of our future.  The wishes for better days.

Christmas is here.  John is here. And, Jesus is on the way!  Joseph and Mary are about to experience the miraculous, just like Zech and Liz have experienced.

And on the 8th day after their baby is born, they will name Him “Jesus”, just as the angel had foretold.  And, we will sing, and praise, and worship His Name forever!

“… Come, thou long expected Jesus …”.  COME and SAVE us from ourselves, from sin, from evil and death.  Come, LORD Jesus, COME!