God is with us in Word and Sacrament

The Feast of the Circumcision and Name of Jesus

The Feast of the Circumcision and Name of Jesus

Luke 2:21


He was given the Name, JESUS. It is the Name of Moses’ successor, the one who led his people through the Jordan on dry ground. Moses led them out of slavery. Joshua led them into the promised land. His Name means: “The Lord saves.” As the angel Gabriel explained to St. Joseph, “He is to be named Jesus for He will save His people from their sins.” His mother and adopted father do not have the honor of naming Him. For while Adam named all of earth’s creatures, this Child is no creature. He is the Creator. He is the Alpha and the Omega, without beginning or end. He names Himself. He names Himself, “Jesus,” for He saves His people.

Jesus is our Savior. He leads us into the promised land by saving us from our sins. And he does that by offering himself, his own flesh and blood, as an atoning sacrifice for the sin-infected flesh and blood of all mankind. The Son of God, the second person of the holy Trinity, came down from heaven, was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He was bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh, except without sin. He assumed into his body, he took up into himself, our sin-infected flesh and blood. And like a dialysis machine,  he purifies and cleanses it from all impurity, all sins, all guilt, all shame. He takes them into himself, and puts them to death. He kills them by the shedding of his blood. He suffers the penalty for sin, which is death, so that we don’t.

This was set from the moment of his naming. Luke records the event, “And at the end of eight days he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.” In those days, you were named and circumcised on the same day—the eighth day. As he received his name and with it his mission to save us from our sins, he was, by circumcision, shedding his blood to fulfill the Law.

He had no personal need to keep the Covenant with the God of Abraham. He is the God of Abraham. He does not need to be marked as God’s own. But He submits to His own Law. He feels the blade forged by human hands against His tender infant skin. And His blood flows for the sins of the world for the first time. Thus circumcision came to an end.

He was circumcised so that we Christians don’t have to be. He took up our flesh for this purpose: to be our circumcision, to be, in fact, the flesh that was cut off, the sin that is separated from us forever. Look here, O Christian: The God of Abraham has kept the Covenant for you in Himself. He transferred this to you in the waters of Holy Baptism, where, by Grace, you received His Name, and all that goes with it: the service of angels, dominion over creation, the right to address God as Father, a perfect keeping of the Law, and even heaven. His circumcision counts for those who bear His holy Name, whom He calls beloved, darling, children and whom we call “Christian.” Christ, Himself, is the watery cross marking your foreheads to ward off the angel of death. You are clean, holy, just, and pure in Him, as though you never rebelled, never transgressed, never sinned.

How can this be? By the satisfaction and appeasement of God’s wrath in Christ’s perfect death. He was circumcised according to, and in fulfillment of, the Law. And yet, despite His perfect obedience, His never once breaking the Law, He suffered the consequences for all those who had or would. He was cut off from His people, forsaken. He who subjected Himself to circumcision to fulfill the Law bled again when He died that  shameful death for sins He did not commit. And the Blood He shed, by circumcision, by the mocking soldiers’ lashes, and on the cross, is the Blood that covers us and shields us from the wrath of the Father, it washes us clean when His name is placed upon us in Holy Baptism. He will bear those scars, as badges of His Office, into eternity. While we will bear His mark, the sign of His love, His Name into eternity.

For Baptism is a bath that washed us not only once when we received it—washed pure with Christ’s blood—but it continually washes us clean, even daily, for as long as we hold it in faith. For just as that same water of the flood drowned the sinners, but Noah with his family were brought to salvation and carried to Mount Ararat, so also did the water of our Baptism drown our sins, while our souls were carried to the eternal mountain of divine grace. And just as once those same waves of the Red Sea, which swallowed upon Pharaoh and his army, were a protective wall for Israel, so also has our baptismal waters swallowed upon all of our damnation and is for us a sure wall before God’s wrath and punishment. And just as Joshua, Moses’ successor, led the people of Israel across the Jordan River by stopping its flow with unmoistened foot and into the land of promise, so also our Joshua, the Lord who is our salvation, the prophet like Moses who came after him, Jesus Christ, leads us through these baptismal waters into the Promised Land of eternity.

Now then, all of you who believe in God’s Word, let your watchword for entering the new year be this: “I am baptized!” Not as an excuse to keep on sinning, but as the reason and power to live life anew in God’s grace and Word. And even though the world may laugh at this comfort, while others may scoff at its confidence, nevertheless, abandon any other pledge or resolution, and resolve to know only this: “I am baptized!” Throughout the entire year, in all terrors of conscience and necessity through sin and death, speak this: “I am baptized!” And you will prevail. In every time of need, you will find comfort in your Baptism. And Satan will flee from your faith and confession; and in death you will see heaven opened and will finally come into the joy of your Lord to celebrate a great year of jubilee, a year of praise, with all the angels forever and ever.

“I am baptized.” We have a name, that name that is above every other name. It is inscribed upon our foreheads and our hearts. It is the Name of Jesus, who saves us. He is our God. We are His people. And this, by Divine proclamation, by His Grace, forever. He who submitted to the knife and then to the cross, rose from the dead and lives! He is exalted. And as those who are baptized into His name, we are in Him, the seed of Abraham and heirs according to the Promise. He is our God. We are His people. Amen.

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