Jan 1, 2017 Circumcision and Naming of Jesus New Year’s Day
Happy New Year! Gift giving time, it seems, has come and gone, but (!) there’s yet one more gift left for us on this New Year’s Day. It’s the gift of naming Jesus on the day of His circumcision. And this gift of naming Jesus, along with His circumcision, is important for you, for me and everyone we can tell it to. His Name is the gift to us that never ends and never ceases to deliver what it promises. The name of Jesus delivers salvation. Listen again to the gospel lesson On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise him, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he had been conceived.
As we’ve seen this Christmas season, Jesus came to earth in a poor, lowly, and humble setting. Yet He was the King of Glory. He came to earth in the form of an infant human child who smelled like the very human child that was He. He wriggled and giggled and cooed as any baby does. Yet also, at the same time, His divine nature and the truth of His being the immortal God was covered up in the form of that human flesh. We call this the ‘incarnation’. The word literally means, to put on, or, to wrap around with, flesh. So, Jesus wrapped His God-ness in human form, so we could know Him. And know that in His incarnation is how the work of His gift to us, of salvation in Jesus name, came to this earth.
When Queen Victoria stayed at Balmoral Castle she sometimes enjoyed a walk in the district secretly dressed as a local. On one occasion she slipped out of the castle, accompanied only by her servant John Brown. Along the road she came on a flock of sheep being driven by a boy, who shouted, “Keep out of the way, stupid old woman!” The Queen smiled, but said nothing, and when her servant came along he informed the boy that she was the Queen. “Right… well,” said the boy, “then she should dress like a queen.” We also didn’t recognize Jesus because He came dressed, not like the King of Glory and Son of God that He is, but He came as a ‘local’ in our common, humble, human form.
Jesus did this for you. Today, the 8th day after the celebration of His birth in human nature, we celebrate His receiving, at His circumcision, the name the angel told Mary and Joseph to name Him. I know it makes people squeamish to think about circumcision, however it’s what God gave as the sign of His first covenant with His people. And it’s important for us who are children of the new covenant in Christ to learn from the old covenant.
Circumcision was done because it was part of the law. It was the beginning of the law for each male child, and it was needed in order for Jesus to grow up as a righteous Jewish boy. His circumcision was done to fulfill all righteousness by the Only Son of God. And it was the very first shedding of blood by Jesus to fulfill completely the righteousness of the law that He and we are born under. This shedding of blood, in His circumcision, was the first He did. And it marks the holy path His life would take to His final shedding of blood on the cross. These bloody events, circumcision and cross, are the bookends to Jesus’ work on earth.
At only 8 days old Jesus has someone pierce His skin to ensure that He’s part of the old covenant of Israel as God commanded. And later His skin again is pierced on the cross by human hands to ensure that you and I become part of the new covenant that’s based in His righteousness alone. And the guarantee of that for us happens on the 8th day as well. Remember that it’s on the 8th day of the week that Jesus rose victorious from the grave. That 8th day is the eternal day. Listen to a bit of Luther about how the 8th day is so important both for the circumcision of Jesus and His resurrection for our salvation.
The eighth day signifies the future life; for Christ rested in the grave on the Sabbath, that is, during the entire seventh day, but rose again on the day which follows… the eighth day… and after it no other day is counted. For through His death Christ brought to a close the weeks of time and on the eighth day entered into a different kind of life, in which days are no longer counted but there is one eternal day.
This has been thought out wisely, learnedly, and piously, namely, that the eighth day is the eternal day. For the risen Christ is no longer subject to days, months, weeks, or any number of days; He is in a new and eternal life … In that eternal life the true circumcision will be carried out for us all. At that time not only the foreskin of the heart will be circumcised – which happens in this life for us through faith – but the entire flesh… will be cleansed of all depravity, ignorance, lust, sin, and filth. So says Luther.
So the 8th day circumcision and naming of Jesus has eternal significance for you and me. And it has significance in showing us the Christ was indeed fully human, that He was God in-carnate. Being wrapped in human flesh, then, He is given a human name, Jesus.
The name given by the angel was used because God wanted that name to deliver the gift of what it promises. The name Jesus is a Greek translation of the Hebrew name, Joshua. And it means “Yahweh saves.” Yahweh is the Old Testament name for the Lord God Almighty. And like the Joshua of the Old Testament, Jesus was to take his people in victory into the Promised Land of life eternal with our loving God.
Jesus fulfills the promise of His name completely, since He Himself is “the Lord who saves.” The gift of the name, “Jesus”, without the action to back it up would have been incomplete. Jesus’ work of salvation didn’t start at His baptism in the Jordan River, as some people might think. Jesus’ work of bringing about our salvation began with His incarnation in the womb of Mary.
His work began with taking on the humble form of an infant and growing through life as we all do. By the divine God becoming enfolded in our flesh He could then be known by us and He could experience temptation and struggles as we experience them.
Had Jesus not been circumcised on this day, the 8th day according to the law, nothing else would have mattered; because He would not have fulfilled the law in our flesh. But until the work, begun in the womb of Mary, was complete on the cross and the coming out of the womb of the empty tomb on Easter morning was done, we were still in our sins. Until that saving work was complete, we were without the righteousness of Christ clothing us as Paul tells in the epistle lesson today. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.
The name of Jesus Christ, being put on us in our baptisms, fulfills the promise of God to Mary and Joseph through the angel Gabriel, that in the name of Jesus we are saved. It’s in that name we’re baptized and it’s in the name Jesus we find our eternal 8th day. It’s the glory of that Name that takes away all darkness, fear and doubt for our today and for the new year. It’s the name of Jesus by which we are saved unto eternal life.
We’ve been given the light of Jesus glory in His name and nothing will remove it from us. That light shines in us and it also shines through us. An artist once did a picture of a winter twilight scene. The trees he painted as heavily laden with snow, and a dreary, dark house, lonely and desolate in the midst of a storm. It was a sad picture. Then, with a few small quick strokes of yellow paint, he put light in a few windows. The effect was magical. The entire scene was transformed into a vision of comfort and cheer. The name of Jesus is just such a light in our dark world.
Like that house in the painting, we’ve been filled by Jesus light, with His name, so that we can know that the living God of heaven knows us and loves us. By the light of the name of Jesus, we’re given the assurance that His righteousness is ours by His grace through faith alone. His name, put on us, changes our identity. We’re now ones who’ve been redeemed by the blood of Jesus. And the gift of His name on us assures us that we belong to the Father above. As we begin the New Year, resolve to rest yourself in that truth.
Remember I said we could learn from the old covenant in order to understand the new? A look back at the Old Testament lesson today gives us a familiar way to understand what it means to have the name of Jesus put on us. We’ve gained, through His obedience to the old covenant, the blessings of the new covenant. And yet in that old covenant we learn what it is that is delivered to us through the shedding of Christ’s blood – it is peace with God. And that peace is put on us through the words that God commanded Aaron to speak to the people and so to put the name of God on them and bless them. These are the familiar words we hear most every Sunday. Listen again to these words and the importance that God attaches to them, The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the people of Israel: you shall say to them, The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. “So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them.”
And so the blessing of the Lord comes to us through Jesus, wrapped in our flesh so we could be wrapped in His name, and by His work – and through that Name – we’ve been given the gift of eternal salvation! There is no better gift on this 8th day, by which we start our New Year! In Jesus name, amen!
Sermon #864 Rev. Thomas A. Rhodes, Pastor – Zion Lutheran Church, Bolivar, MO
First Reading Numbers 6:22-27
22 The Lord said to Moses, 23 “Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them:
24 ‘“The Lord bless you and keep you; 25 the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; 26 the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”’
27 “So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.”
Epistle Reading Galatians 3:23-29
23 Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. 24 So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. 25 Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.
26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith,
27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
Holy Gospel Luke 2:21
21 On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.