Archive for January 2nd, 2017

When the Lutheran Book of Worship (LBW) was published in the ’70s for the church bodies that eventually would merge into the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod ceased to support the publication of that worship book), it was heralded as a giant step toward unity. For many of us, not attentive to the subtle changes, and driven by enthusiasm, did not notice these changes were subtle and significant.  Here is one of those changes:  January 1st is the Circumcision and Name of Jesus but in the LBW “The Circumcision” was not included, it was lopped off.   January 1st, 8 days after Jesus’ birth, when we are told He was circumcised, the emphasis was only on His Name. 

Now I wrote that bit about “lopping off” with tongue in cheek but it was a circumcision of a venerable feast day’s title done by men.  Even a charge of antisemitism could be leveled:  taking away Jesus’ Jewishness that He was born under the Law.  Maybe in the antinomianism (anti-Law) the Church was falling into, we don’t want to be reminded that Luke and Matthew, in particular, go to lengths to show that Joseph, Mary, Elizabeth, Zechariah…and Jesus kept God’s Law.  It was their joy to do so, not to gain salvation. And a few decades later, so many churches stopped keeping God’s Law, especially when it comes to marriage and life.  

Maybe it is we don’t want to reminded that Jesus was not only a Jew but a man!  Oh no!  Sexism! Patriarchalism! And in a few decades later the very language of the Scripture, hymnody and liturgy would be gutted by the inclusive language knife.  

Now I do not know the reasoning for this change in the feast day on January 1st.  The pastors, liturgists and theologians probably were not in cahoots in some sort of gnostic heresy to make the Lord sound more androgynous…but then again, decades later, the man Jesus Christ would be “reimagined” as a feminist principle…not just lopping off His foreskin. No longer true man, and neither then is He true God.  But of course maybe they were hoping for this small change in the name of enlightenment  but this change would be one of many in the LBW, and throughout the Lutheran Church that would sink the Reformation clarity of Sola Scripture, by Scripture alone, as this “sola” conforms our liturgical life in the Lord.  The price of freedom in Christ is eternal vigilance.  He felt the sting of the law, and He did not need to, and one day the full sting of the Law:  death, even death on the Cross.  And decades later, many denied the blood atonement and they have a blood-less Christ, not the Savior who loves us to death. His Name is backed by His own blood, beginning on 1 January, the 8th Day. 



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From Pr. Johann Gerhard’s  (October 17, 1582August 17, 1637) sermon on the Circumcision and Name of  Jesus:

Just like pearls are found in the ocean, so also in the depths of the great ocean of the Holy Scripture there is to be found the name of Jesus.

The high priests entered the Holy of Holies with blood to make atonement before God. Here we have the true Throne of Grace and God’s blood side by side.

The circumcision shows that Christ is a true Man; the name “Jesus” shows that He is true God.

Just as golden jewelry is composed of many beautiful diamonds, so also the name of Jesus is composed of the many precious diamonds of His blessings. Just as God had planted a paradise garden filled with loveliness for man in his state of innocence, so also after the fall into sin He planted a spiritual, heavenly, desirable garden for our souls the name of Jesus. In it, we find

the true Tree of Life,

the greening Rod of Aaron,

the little Twig from the Root of Jesse,

the righteous Branch of David,

the living Wine-vine,

the little bush of Myrrh,

the Flower and Rose of Sharon

in whom He has enclosed the highest desire and joy of our soul. In Paradise, little fountains quelled forth; in Christ, through the Circumcision, was opened up the little fountain of blood.

Just as a groom bestows his portrait upon his bride, so also God the Lord bestows upon us the name of Jesus, in which Christ has portrayed Himself. We are to bear His image upon our hearts.”

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