Sunday, January 01, 2012

Sermon: Circumcision and Name of Jesus – 2012

1 January 2012 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: Luke 2:21 (Num 6:22-27, Gal 3:23-29)

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

Circumcision was not just a religious ritual. It was a contract. Instead of hiring a lawyer and signing papers, a covenant in ancient times meant making a promise in front of everyone, and literally “cutting” the deal, slicing flesh and shedding blood as a sign and confirmation of the oath and promise.

When God established his covenant with Abraham, the cutting of the deal took the form of circumcision of male children on the eighth day after their birth. And the deal made by God is this: “I will be your God.” The deal made by the people is this: “and you will be My people.”

The deal was cut with Abraham and with his descendants – both physical and spiritual. But one Descendant of Abraham is actually the One who made the deal in the first place, and this Child who was circumcised on His eighth day following His birth was named at that time, and His name is “Jesus.”

His name is Jesus, dear friends, the name that is above every name, the name before which every knee shall bow, the name that every tongue will confess, the only name by which we must be saved. For the name Jesus means literally “God saves.”

You see, that is the covenant, the contract, the deal. When Jesus was circumcised, God signed on the dotted line in blood, and He offered His only-begotten Son as collateral in the deal. Jesus is our salvation and His circumcision was the down-payment on the greatest cosmic transaction in the history of history itself. On the eighth day following the birth of Jesus, it is as if history finally moved beyond the six days of creation and the Sabbath rest of the Lord. It is as if the eighth day following the birth of Christ became the first day of the new week of creation, the new covenant that was cut that does not abolish, but fulfills, the old covenant. For once this perfect male Lamb was sacrificed, there would be no more shedding of blood for the forgiveness of sins. For this Circumcised Jesus would thirty three years hence be the Crucified Jesus, the one whose blood of the New Testament would be poured out completely for us as a sin offering, as the very fulfillment of the circumcision and name of Jesus: “God saves.”

The Lord promised it to Abraham. In fact, the Lord hinted at His name to Abraham, calling Himself the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. In other words, the God of the people who bear His name – as the Lord promised covenantally to Moses: “So shall they put My name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them.”

His name becomes our name. And His name is also a promise: “God saves.” This is not a slogan, but a description of reality. Jesus was not named “Jesus” because Mary thought it sounded nice, or she googled it to make sure it would be unique, nor was it even selected as a tribute to someone in the family. No, the name “Jesus” was “given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb.”

The name “Jesus” is not just a way to call the Son of Mary to the dinner table, but rather it is the only way for all of us cousins of Mary to call upon our God – even when we are at the dinner table. And what’s more, we partake of the One named Jesus, whose blood was shed in the flesh, when we approach the table of His altar, partaking of His flesh and blood, uniting ourselves in that fleshly and bloody covenant, and holding God to the terms of the contract God Himself cut for us: “God saves.” For that is what it means that He will be our God and we will be His people. “God saves” is the covenant, dear brothers and sisters!

“God saves.” We say it and confess it and pray it every time we speak the name “Jesus.” For us as people of the covenant, it is impossible to mention “Jesus” without mentioning “salvation.” It is impossible to separate “Jesus” from “salvation.” For the Lord Jesus is both our God and our Savior – just as Mary confessed in the Magnificat.

And since the Lord’s circumcision fulfilled the old covenant, and since the Lord saves us through baptism into the new covenant, St. Paul teaches us: “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ…. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.”

And while sinful men routinely break promises – whether with good intentions or even through deliberate deception – God never breaks His promises, because His Word is truth. And His Word took flesh, was cut in the flesh, bled in the flesh, died in the flesh, and rose again in the flesh. And this Jesus gives us His flesh and His blood – and we are His people, we are His rescued, we are those who bear His name. We are Christians because we are Christ’s beloved. We are Christ’s beloved because of the circumcision and name of Jesus: God saves.

And today is not only the eighth day of Christmas, it is the eighth day of creation, the first day of the new and everlasting covenant. For in this covenant of salvation, each and every day is a new day in Christ, dear friends. As the world makes New Year’s resolutions and fails to keep those promises, we Christians receive New Year’s blessings from Him who always keeps those promises. He has come to save us, redeem us, rescue us, imprint His name upon us, and fulfill His very real flesh and blood promise that was signed at His circumcision, sealed at His crucifixion, and delivered at His resurrection – and received by us through faith.

This gift is yours, dear friends, yours by virtue of the name – that most holy name of Jesus: “God Saves.” And by the saving name of Jesus, you have an eternal promise of blessing in that name, the blessing solemnly spoken to and upon God’s people: “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.”


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

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