Monday, 5 December 2016

Advent 2: Names and Titles

I've been thinking recently about identities and titles - who I am and how people think of me.  For example (and this list is growing):

"Mr Leese" to the people on the phone who ring up to try and sell me stuff
"David Leese, Online Optimisation Manager for EMEA" to people who work in the same field as I do
"Lizzie's dad" (this is becoming an increasingly common one, although recently I was introduced as "Isaac's dad" for the first time)
"Naomi's husband" to Naomi's friends
"David" to my colleagues
"Dave" to my friends and family
"Dad" to my children


So I have various 'identities' or various titles depending on who's thinking about me or speaking to me.  All of them are accurate, and they all show part of who I am.  My name is David Leese; my titles are varied (and not well known).  Some people have even more titles and even longer ones.  For example, at the moment, the UK's most senior politician is "The Right Honorable Theresa May MP, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland", although I doubt her husband calls her that.
Images Credit: The Telegraph
 The US President is addressed as "Mr President" (or "Mrs President" if the president is a lady) although there has been historic debate about calling him (or her) Electoral Highness or Excellency (the idea did not catch on).  To quote the official White House website:

"The President is both the head of state and head of government of the United States of America, and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces.  Under Article II of the Constitution, the President is responsible for the execution and enforcement of the laws created by Congress."
So, if we were to list the President's titles, you could start with these (I am sure there are more):

President of the United States;
Head of State, Head of Government;
Commander in Chief;

Responsible for execution and enforcement of law.

The President isn't called by this lengthy name plus title every time he meets somebody for the first time, nor when he's conversing with friends.  That's probably why it was decided that he should be addressed Mr President.  Currently, the name of the US President is Barack Obama; his title is extensive, and each part of his title describes what he does and what authority he has.

If you think that's a lengthy title, then an even more interesting example is Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II.  Not only does she have a lengthy title as the Queen of the United Kingdom, but each country in the Commonwealth has its own title for the Queen.  The full list is here on Wikipedia, but here are two examples of titles for the same person:

Grenada (since 1972): Her Majesty Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of Grenada and Her other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth.

New Zealand (since 1952):  In Māori: Kotuku; translation in English: The White Heron

Now, bearing all these names and titles in mind, it becomes easier to understand the frequently-read Christmas Bible passage in Isaiah 9, which prophesies the coming of Jesus.

"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given,and the government will be on his shoulders.  And he will be called:
Wonderful Counselor,
Mighty God,
Everlasting Father,
Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end."  Isaiah 9:6 


['The government will be on his shoulders' means, in modern day language, that he - Jesus - will be in charge - be the head of government of literally the whole world.  The other titles are slightly easier to understand, and there's more information here.]

The titles and descriptions all refer to authority and position, and they all address one person - not by name (his name isn't exactly "Jesus Wonderful-Counselor Josephson"), but by title.  In the same way as Mr May probably calls his wife Theresa, and Barack Obama's children call him 'dad'.  Conversely, if I talk about "The Queen," then it's clear that I'm referring to Elizabeth Windsor (though I'd rarely refer to her in that way).  


On Earth, we give powerful people lengthy and meaningful titles to go after their names to address them properly, acknowledging their power and authority; Jesus (who is the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, and so on) is no exception.

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