New Year’s: Circumcision and Name of Jesus

Luke 2:21: And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

Merry Christmas!

The days remain short this time of year. The sun is set. The evening is at hand and the dawn of a new year awaits. For many even Christmas is past. Yet on the 8th day of Christmas, your true love gives to you the first shed drop of His holy, precious blood as He undergoes circumcision under the law.

Circumcision_of_Jesus_001It might seem like a strange thing to celebrate, yet it is essential for our life and salvation. “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” (Luke 2:21). This is after all why the Word became flesh. This is Christmas, God has joined Himself to us in the flesh of infant baby Jesus.

Much like when babies would receive their name not at birth but at their chrismation, their baptism, for Jewish baby boys they would not receive their name until their circumcision. Throughout the Scriptures we see the importance of names. God gives Adam his name, which simply means “man.” Adam is given to name the rest of the creatures in Eden. He names Eve, which means “source of life.” God changed Abram’s name to Abraham, as that sort of ending with a “m” is Hebrew equivalent of English adding “s” to make plural, thus Abram to Abraham, the father of many. Abraham’s wife, Sarai, means quarrelsome, changed to Sarah meaning “lady or princess.” Their child, Isaac, means “he laughs,” named by the Lord as Sarah laughed at the notion of her giving birth in old age. Isaac’s son Jacob, grabbed his brother Esau (whose name means hairy, something which comes into play in the narrative) by the heal, Jacob means “holder of the heel.”

Even the Lord’s name revealed of Himself, Yahweh, “I AM,” is in a form that includes all that is past, present, and future, He is the Lord. Scripturally, names are much more than just something that goes together or sounds cute. They have meaning. We often forget this. Names were not given just to distinguish an identity from each other, but to establish and proclaim an identity and relationship with the Lord.

And so, on the 8th day of Christmas, your true love, the infant priest born for you, receives His name, the name that is above every name, the name at which every knee should bow, the only name under heaven given to men by which we are saved, Jesus. It was a unusual thing to receive a name before this day, but for our Lord, this name was given and established by the angel’s proclamation at the conception. “You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). The name Jesus means, Yahweh saves.

Unto you is born in the city of David a Savior who is Christ the Lord. Merry Christmas!

Just as names are significant so too is every detail of the Lord’s life, death, and resurrection. You see, in being the perfect and sinless Son of God, in fulfilling the Law entirely on our behalf, means much more than just that Jesus didn’t talk back, obeyed His parents authority, and was an overall good guy. It means He fulfilled the Law entirely.

So on the 8th day of Christmas, the first thing of Law fulfilled in His righteousness, He was circumcised according to mandate of the Law. It was the sign of the covenant with our father Abraham and of his offspring. Done in perfect obedience, not on the 7th day nor the 9th, no waiting until all the family plans came together to celebrate, no waiting to ask the child if he wanted this or not, but simply by God’s Word and promise made a child of the covenant on the 8th day by circumcision.

As the Word became flesh, He places Himself under the Law to redeem us who are under the Law to make us Sons. You see, the problem with the Law is that they are not like our new year’s resolutions where by January 2nd, or 3rd if we are really good, we’ve changed and resolved to try better next time. It is all or nothing, guilty on one part of the law and we are accountable for it all (James 2:10). The Word made flesh fulfills the Law, even in circumcision.

The flesh and blood that is celebrated on the eighth day of Christmas is the flesh and blood which sheds its first blood, for you and for me. It was the promise of the greater shedding of blood that was still yet to come.

From the moment of His incarnation in the womb of Mary, through His birth, His circumcision, His presentation in the temple at 40 days, to what we will hear this Sunday at 12 years old in the temple, to His years largely recorded with the disciples, He perfectly upholds and keeps all of the Law. For this is why He came into our flesh. Did you hear it as Paul wrote to the church in Galatia:

“For in Christ Jesus, you are all sons of God through faith.  For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ…if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.”

As proclaimed in Colossians (2:11-12), “In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.”

The child born to bear your sin and be your Savior fulfills the Law in every way, and though He had no sin became sin for us, taking it on in His glorious death. Every drop of blood that He sheds is for you, as He fulfills His name, the Lord saves.

He fulfills it all for you and gives it to you in your baptism, where He buries you in His death and raises you in His life. It is there that you are made a child of God, an heir of the promise. For that is how it has always worked. Not awaiting some good confession, not some cognitive decision you made, but the Lord who declared of 8 day old babies to be heirs of the promise, part of the covenant, chooses and claims you as His chosen child and gives you His name as it is poured over you with His cleansing water.

The circumcision and name of Jesus are not just some details, but necessary for your salvation. And so, people loved by God, let this new year be for us a true feast of the circumcision, a true living in our Baptism. Let us in Christ lay aside the old sinful self, corrupted by its deceitful desires. Let us let that old boy drown and die in the waters of Baptism and receive instead from our Lord our new self, a new heart whose will is aligned with God’s and who lives by faith in God’s promises – no matter how foolish those promises may appear to human reason. Let this new year be for us a time of rising up into the newness of life that is ours in Jesus Christ who on this day was cut in the flesh for us that we might indeed become in Him the true circumcision who worships God in the spirit and puts no confidence in our own flesh. A little Child sheds his blood today and embarks upon the path of obedience that will turn the world around and set his people free!

The Lord’s salvation revealed, His name is Jesus, Yahweh saves. He saves you, forgives you, and gives you His name. Depart in peace. Merry Christmas!

In the name of the Father and of + the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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