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The Circumcision of Our Lord – Luke 2:21

by pastorjuhl ~ January 1st, 2009

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

The Holy Gospel for the Festival of the Circumcision of Our Lord is
the shortest reading of the Church year: one verse. Though this one
verse is one sentence long, it speaks volumes.

Eight days after Jesus’ birth according to the flesh, the Son of God
is circumcised according to the Word given Abraham. God told Abraham
that all male children will be circumcised eight days after birth as a
sign of the covenant God made with Abraham and his descendants.
Circumcised children are children of the Promise of the Seed of the
woman. Uncircumcised children are not children of the Promise of the
Seed of the woman.

What could have run through Abraham’s mind when God commanded
circumcision? Cutting off the foreskin of an eight day old child?
Cutting off the foreskin of a 99-year-old man? What God proposes may
not be pleasing to the world, let alone to our sensibilities. The
words “circumcision” and “foreskin” aren’t used in polite
conversation, let alone impolite conversation. Few men boast publicly
that they are circumcised. Yet there is a festival day in the Church
Year that honors the Christ Child’s circumcision.

It’s important that Christians honor this holy day. Today is the day
that Jesus first submits to the Law on our behalf. It doesn’t make any
difference in a man’s salvation whether or not a person is
circumcised. Jesus keeps that Old Testament Law perfectly. He fulfills
that Law in our place.

The message of salvation to the uncircumcised was a tough sell in the
early days of Christianity. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians is a
testimony to the difficulty that the Jews had in believing and
confessing that the Good News of Jesus is for both Jew and Gentile;
both circumcised and uncircumcised.

The message of salvation to the uncircumcised is still a tough sell in
the year of our Lord 2009. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians is just as
relevant today as it was in the Church’s infancy. The root problem was
a confusion of the distinction between Law and Gospel. Jewish
Christians made a mistake when they began to teach Gentiles that there
was a condition attached to the Good News. They preached a message of
salvation by grace through faith, but only if you are circumcised
first. The Jewish Christians dared to say that the Gospel means
nothing unless you are circumcised, you abstain from unclean foods,
and live as the Jews did before Christ came.

When we read Galatians, we can almost see the smoke coming out of
Paul’s ears and feel the fire roaring off his pen. God’s message to us
in Galatians is the same message proclaimed by Christian preachers
today as it was first proclaimed through the Old Testament prophet
Habakkuk: the just shall live by faith. Faith in Whom? Faith in Jesus
Christ.

If Jesus keeps the Law perfectly on our behalf, yet we must keep the
Law as He did in response to Him, then why did Jesus do what He did?
That’s the bottom line of Paul’s letter to the Galatians. We cannot
make the Law the Gospel. We cannot make the Gospel the Law. Yet
Christians try their hardest every day to confuse Law and Gospel to
alarming success. For example, the fad popular ten years ago of
bracelets with four letters: W.W.J.D., meaning, “What Would Jesus Do?”
The wearer was to look at the bracelet every time trouble arose in
their life. Looking at those four letters guided the person to make
the right decision.

There is moral right and wrong in our Lord’s preaching. Yet making the
right moral choice is not the chief substance of what Jesus does.
Perhaps it’s best if we change those letters to W.H.J.D? “What Has
Jesus Done?” Eight days ago we answered the question with the answer,
“He was born a man for me.” Today we answer the question with the
answer, “Jesus shed His blood for me.”

Eight days old and already shedding blood. But that’s what His name is
all about. Jesus means “God saves”. That’s exactly what He does for
you and me. Jesus shed His blood to cover all our sins, even the sin
of confusing Law and Gospel.

When God puts His Name on us in our Baptism, He puts us right there by
Jesus when He is circumcised. We have an up close and personal view of
His foreskin being trimmed for our sake. Jesus submits to the Law on
our behalf. By faith we believe that His circumcision is our
circumcision. Paul explains it this way: For as many of you as were
baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor
Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor
female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s,
then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

When the Lord puts His name on us, everything attached to that name
belongs to us. The priestly blessing of Numbers chapter six bestows
the Lord’s blessing on us. The Lord indeed blesses us and keeps us
from all sin, from death, and from the power of the devil. The Lord’s
face shines on us, bringing light from above that shines in the
darkness of our lives. The Lord’s countenance is lifted upon us,
giving us gladness and joy, but especially peace. Where the Lord’s
Name is, there is His blessing.

Jesus’ Name is our name through Baptism. Jesus’ circumcision is our
circumcision through faith in the Promise of the Seed of the woman Who
crushes the head of the serpent to redeem mankind from the devil’s
grasp. All this is ours because of what happened eight days after
Christ’s birth according to the flesh. His blood shed even as a baby
is our righteousness that sets us free from the shackles of the Law
and gives us freedom in Christ forever. Believe it for Jesus’ sake.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

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