Thursday, January 10, 2013

A Sermon for the Name and Circumcision of Jesus: "A Knife, The Name, and a New Year"

The Circumcision and Name of Jesus – December 31st, 2009
Redeemer Lutheran, HB
Text: Luke 2:21
Theme: The Name of the Lord Saves and His Blood Forgives.

“A Knife, The Name and A New Year”

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
In the eyes of the world it’s New Year’s Eve.  We count down the final minutes and seconds of 2009.  The world will celebrate 2010 by lighting fireworks, proposing toasts and offering accolades to old acquaintances.  Now there’s nothing wrong with New Year’s parties or midnight traditions.  But the Church has a better reason to gather on this day.  In the eyes of the Church, the New Year’s day of the Church Year already came on the first Sunday in Advent.  In the eyes of the Church today we celebrate the circumcision and naming of Jesus.
In the Hebrew way of keeping time, the 8th day after Jesus’ birth began today after sunset.  According to the Law of Moses and the God’s covenant for Abraham: Every 8 day old male among shall be circumcised as a sign of the covenant between the Lord and Abraham.
Therefore, the Gospel according to Luke for tonight reads, “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.”

For Jesus, there was no age of accountability.  From the day He was born, our sinful curse weighed heavily upon Him who had no sin.  Every stage of life, He lived for us.  Every letter of the Law He fulfilled for us, including this one: without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.  It might seem inappropriate or coarse to talk about circumcision at church – don’t worry – we’ll save the PG-13 material for an adult Bible study.

The hymn stanza in your bulletin teaches us well:

O sacred day when first was poured
The blood of our redeeming Lord,
O blessed day, when first began
His sufferings for sinful man!

Forgiveness is a bloody business.  There’s no avoiding that.  For Jesus, there’s no avoiding our punishment for sins.  No avoiding pain, suffering, or Calvary’s cruelty.  This is what He came to do – to shed His blood, to save, to die, to rise.  This is who He is, our Savior. 
Those scribbly lines on your bulletin cover are letters: Yeshua in the Hebrew, Joshua in the Old Testament, Jesus in the New.  As the angel told Joseph, you shall call His Name Jesus for He shall save His people from their sins.  The Savior is as the Savior does.  The Lord (Yahweh) Saves.
By the Law’s knife, He sheds His forgiving blood. By His Divine Name He saves and blesses – even as a New Year is upon us. The Name of the Lord saves and His blood forgives.

His is no ordinary name.  He is no ordinary child.  The Fullness of deity dwells bodily in this child born of Mary.  The Divine Name is given to a man because this man is also divine.  This is what we confess in the Creed: He was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary.  And then comes the sweetest sentence of all – He was made man.  Pleased as Man with man to dwell, Jesus, our Immanuel.
He didn’t need to take a name quiz on Facebook.  Mary and Joseph didn’t need to look through a list of cute Hebrew baby names in the check-out line at the local Bethlehem market.  The Lord sends His messengers to declare His Name.  Here God names Himself, as He did in the days of Moses, so that He might give His name to man.

When His Name is present, God is present.  This is why the second commandment is no joke.  It’s more than simply blurting out, “O my God” in a moment of surprise or texting “omg” to a friend.  The Divine Name is a saving gift.  And like any gift it can be abused and misused, not just taken in vain, but also taken for granted.
The Second Commandment: You shall not misuse the Name of the Lord your God.  What does this mean?  We should fear and love God so that we do not curse, swear, use Satanic arts, lie or deceive by His Name, but call upon it in every trouble, pray, praise and give thanks. 
            And there’s the rub against our old sinful nature that does not want to hallow God’s Name.  Our old sinful nature loves, even boasts of exalting our own name for the sake of our own name.  The Law not only ask us: “Have you taken the Lord’s Name in vain today?” It also asks, “Have you called upon your heavenly Father with delight?  Have you used holy words or holy names thoughtlessly?  Have you sworn carelessly or falsely?  Have you kept your vows – vows of baptism, of confirmation, of church membership, of marriage?  Have you received the gifts of God’s name faithfully?  Have you listened to and read God’s Word diligently.
            Now is not the time for New Year’s resolutions, but for New Year’s repentance.  To confess before our gracious Heavenly Father that we have misused His Name in thought, Word and deed.  To confess that His name and only His Name will save.  To remember that His name is Jesus and He saves us from our sins, even the ones against His Name.
            When the Name of God is used God Himself is present.  This is why sermons end and begin in the Name of Jesus or God’s Triune Name.  This is why it’s called Divine Service – In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  From Invocation to Benediction, God’s Name is present; God is present doing what He does best: saving, forgiving, and giving His Name hidden in the ordinary gifts of Words, Water, Bread and Wine.
            When the water is poured and the sign of the cross is made this Divine Name is placed upon you; you have a new name by the power of His Word.  In your baptism the Name of the Lord Saves.
            The words of absolution are announced, not in the name of the pastor, but “in the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ, I forgive you all your sins” – sins of lying, deceiving, misusing and abusing God’s name – it’s forgiven by His Name through forgiveness of His blood, given and shed for your for the forgiveness of sins.
            The Name of the Lord Saves and His blood forgives.  By His Name you have been given access to the Holy of Holies, where the priests of old trembled to enter.  Now, in the Name of Jesus you are washed in baptism, declared forgiven in absolution, fed and nourished in His supper.  All that you were – sinful, lost in darkness and rebellion – He took to the cross for you so that all that He has – His Salvation, His eternal forgiveness and life – might be yours.

            In the eyes of the world this might just be another New Year’s Eve.  But in the eyes of our Lord Jesus Christ, this is the night where His Name is given and God Himself is present for you.

In the Name of Jesus + Amen.

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