“Jesus!” (Luke 2:21)

Circumcision and Name of Jesus
Sunday, January 1, 2023

“Jesus!” (Luke 2:21)

[In 2022 and now into 2023, we are celebrating the 175th anniversary year of our Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. Today, on this eighth day of Christmas, we are observing the Circumcision and Name of Jesus. And today is January 1, New Year’s Day. Our message this morning brings together all three of these themes. This past week I came across a sermon by Friedrich Wyneken, the second president of the Missouri Synod, on the Circumcision and Name of Jesus, preached on New Year’s Day, January 1, 1868. I read it and thought it was excellent. So I edited it down to manageable size–sermons back then were over a half-hour–and I adapted it for our use today. This message blessed me, and I know it will bless you. The text is the Holy Gospel, 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.”]

Beloved in Christ: By the grace of God we are starting a new year today. Not for nothing did God arrange it that the world’s celebration of the new year coincides with the church’s celebration of the Lord’s name-day and the day of His circumcision. Therefore, on this first day of the new year, together with the Holy Spirit, let us consider the meaning of Christ’s circumcision and the name Jesus, and how these apply to us at the beginning of the new year.

God first instituted circumcision with Abraham, as the sign of a covenant and a seal for him and his descendants. For God had made a covenant with Abraham. Great and mighty things were promised to him and his seed. Through Abraham would come the woman’s seed promised in Paradise, who would crush the serpent’s head, and, as was specifically promised to Abraham, by whom all mankind would be blessed. And the Lord promised that He would be the God of Abraham and his descendants.

Thus the descendants of Abraham were to carry this sign of the covenant and seal on their bodies–namely, circumcision–to remind them at all times that they had a merciful God who would aid them in all their troubles, save, protect, and guard them, and richly bless them. Yea, He would even deliver them from all sin, death, and judgment, and give them eternal life. At the same time, circumcision was to remind them that all of mankind was conceived and born in sin, and that this inherited sin is upon all people. They were to be constantly aware of the abomination of sin, especially of original sin, so that they would live their lives in continual repentance and humility before God. They were to recognize everything God did for them, be it worldly or spiritual blessings, not as deserving but as a gift of mercy. And they were to be ever mindful to circumcise the foreskin of their hearts, so that with God’s mercy they could live before Him in a chaste, righteous, and God-pleasing manner.

However, Christ’s circumcision has a totally different meaning. He was not in need of this sign of a covenant and a seal. He was the Son of the Most High God. He himself was righteousness, and not conceived and born in sin as other men. He was our equal in everything, except He was without sin. Then why did He suffer circumcision? Galatians lists the main reason: “When the time was completed, God sent his own Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, to purchase freedom for the subjects of the Law, in order that we might attain the status of sons.” To be under the Law means to be subject to it, to be obligated to obey the Law, and that all those who violate the Law will be condemned to punishment. And it is thus concerning God’s Law. He demands strict obedience and curses and condemns those who violate it.

Yet even the most saintly person does not fulfill the Law, neither is he able to do so. Though there have been many who lived devout and saintly lives, never has there been one on earth–and there never will be one–who has fulfilled the Law, except Christ. We, even though we are believers, are by nature sinners and under the dominion of sin. Therefore, according to the right of the Law, we are condemned and given over to the suffering of eternal condemnation.

Christ’s circumcision means for us that He submitted to the right of the Law. He has taken on the obligation to keep the entire Law for us, to fulfill it in the most perfect loving obedience and to receive for us the wages of sin, that is, death and condemnation–in short, all the suffering and pain that the Law had appointed for all time and eternity on the sinner and the violator of the Law. These drops of blood, shed by the baby Jesus during His circumcision, are like a down-payment–a guarantee given for us in view of God’s judgment. Jesus is taking it upon Himself to pay the entire debt for us and do everything on our behalf in order to establish peace between us and God and His Law.

On the cross, in death, this act was completed. There Christ gave His life as payment for the sins of the lost children of Adam. With His precious blood, He paid the entire redemption price and bought us out from under the condemnation of the Law, so that the Law no longer can demand complete obedience or else face eternal death! Thus we have been redeemed from sin, death, and Satan. There, on the cross, God’s Law has been completely fulfilled, so that now He forgives us our sins for Christ’s sake. He takes us back as His children. He wants to give us life and eternal life, for which He prepares us through the Holy Spirit, so that we can be righteous and holy before God.

See now, that is the significance of Christ’s circumcision. It is of the highest importance for a lost sinner. Thus is taken from your shoulders the terrible yoke and horrible burden of the Law and its impossible demands and dreadful curses. They are laid on this dear little child, who made the first payment with His drops of blood, taking it upon Himself to pay your entire, large, large, debt, so that you can go free. In addition, by this down-payment and guarantee, He has obtained forgiveness of sin and eternal life for you.

Now let us examine what meaning the name Jesus has for us. When the angel made the annunciation to Mary, he told her that the child to be born was to be named Jesus. Later an angel appeared to Joseph while he slept and instructed him to take Mary to himself and that the child within her, which was conceived by the Holy Spirit, was to be named Jesus, for He would free His people from their sins. At the time of circumcision, then, when He began His work of redemption and salvation, He publicly received this name.

This name is to remind you, then, that you have a Savior and Redeemer, given you by God Himself, one who loves you and has taken your sins and your condemnation upon Himself, in order to redeem you from your sins and give you eternal life. He reconciles us with God, upholding us and keeping us safe from all evil, all dangers and sufferings. He uses these so that they turn out to be good for us, finally redeeming us completely–yea, He leads us through death into eternal life and everlasting bliss.

See now, all this is contained in this name Jesus and given to you. Therefore, if you believe in this name and call on Him, not considering your own works and merits as your savior, then you are redeemed from your sins and the wages of sin. Then you are righteous and saved, a child and heir of all of God’s promises.

Praise be to God! Our redemption is based on His works, which started with His birth, freely submitting to circumcision, where He solemnly made a pledge to God, which He gloriously fulfilled on the cross. For that, He was born, circumcised, crucified, died, and buried. For that, He descended victoriously into hell. For that, He triumphantly arose, ascended to heaven, sitting on the right hand of God, from where He will return to judge the living and the dead.

With that judgment, He will complete His work. Jesus is the end of the Law. The one who believes in Him is righteous, and whosoever calls on His name will be saved. This name contains all your salvation, the peace of your conscience, the joy of your heart, the hope of life, the victory over death. In short, all of life and salvation, God and heaven–all this is contained in the name Jesus. The name of Jesus embraces the unfathomable depth of mercy and the love of God toward the lost world of sinners. Jesus is our God and Lord.

How then are we to apply what we have heard to the beginning of the new year? Beloved, once again we are standing at the threshold of a new year. Look, over the portal your God has painted a beautiful picture and written a name above it. Look at it and ask God to put this precious picture and name into your heart. The picture depicts the circumcision of Christ, and the name is the sweet, precious name of Jesus. This picture and this name enable you to look right into heaven, into the Father’s heart.

For the one who has faith in this little child–who here has been given the name Jesus, because He is the Savior of His people; who with His first drops of blood becomes our defense against the judging and condemning Law–by faith in Christ you can rejoice and confidently step into the new year.

Oh, there will be enough temptations, trials, and sin–yea, you may be overcome by your body’s weakness and die. But you are not depending on your own heart but on your Jesus, who saves you from your sins and gives you renewed mercy in Word and Sacrament. Forgiveness of sin surrounds you like the air–yea, it is spread out around you like the sky. He is faithful, the one who has called you. He will do it for you. You just hold on to His Word and Sacrament; do not forsake prayer. Death might meet up with you whenever and wherever it wants. But it will only lead you into the eternally new year, into the right peace and bliss. And even while you are in the throes of death, this beautiful name will lighten your way and bring you safely across: J E S U S!

Published in: on December 31, 2022 at 11:36 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: