Monday, January 3, 2011

Hello, My Name is Savior

+ Eve of the Name and Circumcision of Jesus – December 31st, 2010 +
Text: Luke 2:21

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

            Everyone gets all worked up about angels and shepherds and wise guys who haven’t even come yet.  And by this time of the church year you can probably say Luke 2:1-20 in your sleep.  But what about verse 21?  Can you say it without looking?  Or is it like a small town on a road trip…blink and you’ll miss it.  After the census and the angels and their heavenly chorus are over, after the shepherds have gone home praising God for all they saw and heard Luke sneaks in one seemingly unimportant detail.  And at the end of 8 days, when He was circumcised, He was called Jesus, the Name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb.
            Seems pretty normal– not even a blip on the radar, really.  Plenty of little baby boys get circumcised, especially Jewish ones. After all, it was custom to circumcise and name the child on the 8th day.  Infant circumcision was YHWH’s unique sign with Israel – this child is set aside, marked, sealed and chosen as God’s own.  Plenty of other nations had that kind of sign, but only as a rite of passage from adolescence to manhood.  This was different – a sign of the covenant – God’s own promise – that through the seed of Abraham all the nations of the world would be blessed by a Savior, by the Christ, by infant 8-day old Jesus.   
            Luke states it so matter of fact; it sounds rather ordinary.  But it’s the little details – as small and insignificant as they might seem – that really matter. 

But you, O Little town of Bethlehem, who are too little among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth the One who is to be the ruler of Israel. Micah 5:2

A virgin will conceive and bear a Son.  Isaiah 7:14

You shall call His Name Jesus for He will save His people from their sins.  Matthew 1:21 

And at the end of 8 days He was circumcised and He was given the Name Jesus.  Luke 2:21

            You get the point.  Perhaps, then, it’s better to say that God-in-the-flesh – not the devil – is in the details.  Infant Jesus in the details for you.  Born for you.  Circumcised for you.  Placed under the yoke of the Law for you.  That’s really what this occasion is all about.  Jesus, the Son of David, the Son of God, the Son of Mary also becomes for us a Son of Abraham.  The Savior of all is circumcised on behalf of all.  The Lord of the Law is placed under the burden of the Law. 

            “For we,” as St. Paul writes, “were held captive under the Law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed.”  “In the fullness of time God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law to redeem those who were under the Law so that we might receive the adoption as sons.”
            That is what you need: redemption, adoption.  A new life.  A new name.  A new mark, seal and covenant.  Outside of this Infant Jesus your only name is sinner, your only life is death and your only mark is a curse.  Outside of this Name and this Savior there is no redemption, only damnation; no adoption, only rejection.  That’s the ugly truth about us.  We’re Hell-bent on sinning.  Self-centered, wanting to be gods, struggling to be in control.  Sure, we’ll make some new year’s resolutions; try and be better people this year, but only lasts as long as last year’s diet and exercise program.  Good intentions.  Little follow through.  Not to say we shouldn’t try.  We should daily drown the old Adam in Baptism.  We should daily struggle against the lusts of the sinful nature.  We should daily put off the old person in Adam and put on the new person in Christ.  But nothing we do will achieve the perfection God requires under the Law.  And so, for you who are born under the Law as a sinner, Christ is born under the Law to fulfill the Law.  The Lord of the Law comes to silence the thunder of Sinai.

            He comes to be for every man what no man has or could be for himself.  He is the perfect infant, the perfect teenager, the perfect adult, bearing your flesh and blood through every stage of life, bearing your flesh and blood at the cross, bearing your flesh and blood out of the grave, bearing your flesh and blood in His own, for you.  He doesn't wait for the age of accountability to start His saving work.  No days off.  Before Jesus walks, before He talks, before He takes a step, before He crawls, before He can even hold his head up by Himself, His blood is shed for you.  8-day-old-Jesus sheds the same blood in circumcision that will stream forth from His side at His crucifixion.
            That’s why we celebrate today:  In Christ you are a perfect Jew who fulfills the entire Law of Moses.   Everything He is and has is given to you – you perfect infant, you perfect teenager, you perfect adult, You faithful, perfect “son of the covenant,” all in Jesus – and if a son, then also an heir.  Christ’s circumcision is your circumcision.    You are holy because He is holy. You are righteous because He is righteous. You are perfect, because He is perfect.  You are all these things not because you’ve resolved to make yourself a better person, but because God grants it all for Jesus’ sake. 
            Jesus is you everything you need.  Cut His flesh and He bleeds like you.  Betray Him and He weeps like you.  A loved one dies and He weeps like you.  He carries disease and guilt like you…but greater, for this Savior also dies for you.  That’s what you have in Jesus: an extraordinarily ordinary Savior. 

            His blood is for you; His Name is for you.  It’s all in His Name, Jesus: YHWH Saves, God in the flesh for us.  This Infant Priest prepares and cuts a new covenant.  As He did in the days of Noah, Jesus does one better – a saving flood not just for 8 people but for all who are drown in the font.  God names and claims you as His own.  Circumcision is to the OT what Baptism is to the NT – the flesh is put off, a sign and seal are made.  And there in the font you – infant or adult - are set aside, marked, sealed and chosen as God’s own child. 
            It’s the little, God-in-human-flesh details that really matter: water and Words; Blood and water; chalice and font.  Life and forgiveness.  A New born Savior.  A New Name.  A Blessed New Year.    
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit + Amen.

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