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Posts Tagged ‘Circumcision and Name of Jesus’

The Circumcision of Jesus

His infant body now
Begins the cross to feel:
Those precious drops of blood that flow
For death the Victim seal. 

(Hymn #898, stanza 3, Lutheran Service Book)

Readings:  Numbers 6: 22-27;  Psalm 8;  Galatians 3: 23-29;  St. Luke 2: 21 (also read, Philippians 2: 1-11)

Reflection:  Eight days after a male Israelite’s birth, he is circumcised according to the Lord’s covenant with Abraham and Abraham’s descendants.  January 1st is 8 days after the birth of Jesus, December 25th.  This feast day stands in sharp contrast with the secular holiday of New Year’s Eve/New Year’s Day. This feast day seems so stark, even a little bit on the squeemish side, as you look at the photo above:  an old man coming at an infant with a knife to cut off his foreskin! “What God proposes does not please the world, and what the world undertakes does not please God!” (Luther, sermon on Luke 2: 21)  But what is actually the odd holiday?  Remembering that our word “holiday”, is actually “holy day”.  No one intends to be holy on New Year’s Eve, just the direct opposite: drunkenness and hooking-up are the entrees on the New Year’s Eve menu, not covenant and Christ, yet this was the reason He was born, 

In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. 4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. (Galatians 4: 3-5)

Jesus, under the Law, Who needed no Law, yet loved the Word of the Law, went under the knife to begin shedding His blood, and one day His whole body would be under the  knife, upon the Cross…He is risen.  Circumcision is a bloody business, so is sin, so is our salvation and our Savior, who in His blood, has given us the “gift of eternal life”. 

As He was given the Name above all names (Philippians 2:9), so that we are no longer children, but His Sons and Daughters through “adoption”, that is, Baptism, born from above, in the Name of the Lord (Matthew 28:19John 3:5).

He was circumcised on the 8th day.  “The eighth day follows the Sabbath and a new week begins.  So also a new and different circumcision began when the infant Jesus was circumcised on the eighth day” (Luther’s Sermon on Luke 2: 21), that is:

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, 12 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. (Colossians 2: 10-12)

The new year is basically not new but the wearied cycle of sin causing resolution.  Only Christ Jesus makes, not a new year, but a new people, through Him,

“…who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” (Titus 2: 14)

It is about repentance, not resolution.The new people can have daily and joyful repentance, looking to Him daily in Word and Sacrament, prayer, praise and thanksgiving,

“… looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12: 2)

Lord God, You made Your beloved Son, our Savior, subject to the Law and caused Him to shed His blood on our behalf.  Grant us the true circumcision of the Spirit that our hearts maybe be made pure from all sins, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen

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 JESU

Jesu is in my heart, his sacred name
Is deeply carved there: but th’other week
A great affliction broke the little frame,
Ev’n all to pieces: which I went to seek:
And first I found the corner, where was J,
After, where ES, and next where U was graved,
When I had got these parcels, instantly
I sat me down to spell them, and perceived
That to my broken heart he was I ease you,
                                And to the whole is J E S U

(Fr. George Herbert, 1633)

   Readings:  Numbers 6: 22-27;  Psalm 8;  Galatians 3: 23-29;  St. Luke 2: 21 (also read, Philippians 2: 1-11)

       Eight days ago was Christ Mass, December 25th.  This is the covenant the Lord established with Abraham and his descendants according to the flesh: “He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised. Every male throughout your generations…” Genesis 17:12  Jesus was born thoroughly “…under the Law”:  “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law…”  Galatians 4:3-5  This is when the Lord’s Blood was first spilled. 

His infant body now
Begins the cross to feel:
Those precious drops of blood that flow
For death the Victim seal.

His Blood is the seal of His Name.  The Name of Jesus literally means:  “God saves”.  On this day of His circumcision Joseph and Mary publically announced the Name the messenger of God gave to Mary. “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.” Luke 1:30-32

Juliet:
“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”
(William Shakespeare)

Now that is good romantic stuff but I would rather name a daughter “Rose” than “Skunk” even though she would smell as sweet!  Names matter. They identify who one is.  I would dare say you would probably not buy designer clothes with the name, Ralph Lifschitz on it!  But when Mr. Lischitz changed his surname to “Lauren”, as in, Ralph Lauren, it sounded a whole lot better!   wikipedia: Ralph Lauren  Names also matter to the Lord in His Scriptures.  His Name we can count on.  “He restores my soul.He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” Psalm 23:3   Many times the Lord tells us why He does what He does, not for my name’s sake or yours, but His.  His Name is faithfulness.  He stands behind it.  A name you can trust.  This is a most fitting way to begin the calendar New Year when all other names, of government, business, stardom etc. fail.  Over Advent my youngest and I have been re-watching the “Harry Potter” movies.  As the movies progress, it becomes clear that evil is lying in wait, the dark lord who is called in the movies, “He Who Must Not Be Named”.  But evil must be named and even more: There is the Name that Must Be Named, Jesus Christ.  In His Name we pray and hope and wait.  Behind His Name is His Body and Blood.  He has made you His own by naming you in your baptism. A Blessed New Year to you in His Name!

Lord God, You made Your beloved Son, our Savior, subject to the Law and caused Him to shed His blood on our behalf.  Grant us the true circumcision of the Spirit that our hearts maybe be made pure from all sins, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen

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The picture in the header is one I took at The Cloisters (see link on the Blogroll on the right, scrolled down) art museum in New York a couple of years ago.  Since all the picture can not be included above, here is the whole picture of this Medieval stained glass:

I find it rather frightening this image of a man coming towards an infant with a big knife!  It reminds of the Scripture:

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.          Hebrews 4:  12-13

But the One circumcised on the 8th day of His Life, according to the covenant with Abraham, did not have to give an account.  He went “under the knife” to live under the Law of God and keep it perfectly. We sin and fail daily.  The Law comes at us like a knife, “sharper than any two-edged sword”, and this is the reason why, in the Hebrews text, the Scriptures says, ” Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.”  That is, Jesus’ Sabbath rest in which He rested in the Tomb with the sin of the world so buried which in Him is our forgiveness, beloved!  We are not to disobey such a great forgiveness by which we rest from our works to save ourselves!  He bore it all!!

  Now it is rather fanciful in the stained glass that the portrayal of the Christ as Infant is very much aware and appears to be giving a blessing to the priest about to circumcise Him!  Jesus would feel pain in the cut of the covenant.  He would bleed.  As He would say to John the Forerunner before His baptism:  Let it be to fulfill all righteousness.  His blood is our blessing and beatitude for our salvation.  Then the man on the left holding a rather large basin to catch the blood!  As if there would be a lot of blood spilled from even a circumcision…there would be one day, upon the Cross.  Cut to death. His Name Jesus literally means “God saves”.  His Name and His blood go together.

 Later Jesus taught:

9 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.

For even if one is circumcised and boasts about keeping the Law, God’s commandment is still there: You shall love God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind. Also  you shall not covet. Name me one man who has ever kept that or can! (Luther’s Sermon for January 1) We can’t cut it out. One could be cutting away till one is dead because of the cause of sin.  That’s the point:  sin is death. Yes, there is one Man who has kept the law perfectly and He is our peace. On the 8th Day He was cut and one day would be cut off from the land of the living because of our iniquity.  Then on another 8th day, after the Sabbath in the tomb:  He is risen! And so He alone is the resurrection and the life, not Mary, not Martha, not you or I.  No good work is Jesus Christ.  No fine spiritual thought is Jesus Christ. He alone is your peace.  For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Cor. 5: 21

From Pr. Johann Gerhard’s  (October 17, 1582 – August 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.”

Let us pray…

Lord God, You made Your beloved Son, our Savior, subject to the Law and caused Him to shed His blood on our behalf. Grant us the true circumcision of the Spirit that our hearts may be made pure from all sins; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Source: The Treasury of Daily Prayer

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