Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Sermon for Name and Circumcision of Jesus: "A New Year and a New Name"

+ Eve of the Name and Circumcision of Jesus – December 31st, 2013 +

Redeemer Lutheran, HB
Numbers 6:22-27; Galatians 3:23-29; Luke 2:21

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

The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the people of Israel: you shall say to them,
The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.  

“So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them.” Numbers 6:22-27

In every place where I cause my name to be remembered I will come to you and bless you. Exodus 20:24

“Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:20-21

And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12
For…at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:10-11

And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb. Luke 2:21

Notice the common thread woven in that tapestry of Scriptures? God’s name. God’s name given for us. God’s name blessing us. God’s name saving us. God’s name upon our lips. And today…on the eve of the Festival of the Name and Circumcision of Jesus…God’s name given to an eight day old boy who is God in human flesh.

What’s in a name?” Shakespeare’s Juliet asked. And you may well be wondering the same. What’s in a name? Why does the Church have an entire festival dedicated to the name and circumcision of Jesus? What’s the big deal?

Just think about how much time and thought parents put into naming their children. Names are important– they’re our identity, it’s who we are, names place us into a family; and most parents choose names for specific reasons, mine for example means “His Name is God” (as in the OT Creed, the great Shema). Or my daughter Zoe: it’s the Greek word for life. 

And as important as our names are, how much more so is the name of God.

 That little 8 day old bundle of human flesh was given a name. Yeshua or Joshua in the Old Testament (that’s what those scribbly lines are on your bulletin cover). Jesus means Yahweh Saves. For he will save his people, he will save you, from your sins. For that is what he was born to do. He was born to live for you, suffer for you, and die for you. He was born to receive a name so that he might take your name upon himself.

Jesus. YHWH saves. This is the Name sends the Devil running away. This is the Name by which prayer is heard. This is the Name by which God in the flesh is known, the name by which we are saved. 

The Name of Jesus is the name you need. For without the Name of Jesus your only name is sinner. It is precisely for you, that this child is given the Name, Jesus. Mary’s child is named Jesus in order to place his name upon you. God becomes a child in order to make us children of God. God takes a human name in order to save us from our name – sinner – and give us a new name: Baptized.

And without this new name we’re worse than orphans. We are nameless. Without the name of Jesus placed upon us we are only slaves, numbers in a vast death march. No name. No identity. No family. No place to call home.

That’s the deadly reality of our sin. We deny the Name of our Lord. Our sinful flesh only worships one name, one god: me, myself, and I. And isn’t that the root of all kinds of evil? A world run amuck, full of people like us who want nothing more than to make a name for themselves at any expense. A world full of people like you and me who think: “What’s in it for me?” We carry that name sinner with us into family gatherings, church meetings (the official and unofficial ones), and everywhere we go. 

We need more than a New Year with a clean slate. We need a new name. Therefore, begin this New Year not with endless resolutions but with continual repentance. Repent of your name sinner. Repent of placing your name above your neighbors’. Repent of failing to call on the Lord’s Name.
In Christ’s Church we don’t live on resolutions, but in repentance…and in rejoicing. 

Rejoice this New Year in a new name, the Name given for you: Jesus, Yahweh saves! Rejoice, for no matter how often you fail to keep your resolutions – God has resolved to save you in the Name and Circumcision of his Son, Jesus. Rejoice that no matter what kind of pain, sorrow, or grief this New Year brings – all of it has been experienced for you by the boy, the teenager, the man named Jesus. Rejoice that no matter how great your sin is, Jesus’ Name is greater than your sin.

Remember that little verse from Exodus 20:24. Commit it to memory this New Year: Wherever I cause my name to be remembered there I will come among you and bless you.

Where is that? Just think of all the places and times you hear the Name of the Lord given to you in blessing during Divine Service…

Divine Service begins… In the Name of the Father and of the Son of the Holy Spirit. And Divine Service ends the same way: the Name of the Triune God placed upon you in blessing.  After confessing our sins we hear: “In the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ I forgive you all your sins in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” 

Where is God’s Name? Look to where the Lord places his Name upon you: in words from lectern and pulpit and altar, in words of prayer, blessing, and hymns. Look to the altar where God’s Name is given in flesh and blood for your forgiveness. Look to God’s Name given to you in Baptism: “I baptize you in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
A new name for a new year, and a new creation.
So as we watched the Toy Story trilogy for the umpteenth time this past week I couldn’t help but think of Baptism. In the movie, Andy, the main character, writes his name on the foot of each toy. Why? Because having Andy’s name on your foot means you belong to him, you are loved and cared for, you are his own treasured possession; it means you’re family, and he’ll do anything to keep and protect you.

This is what Christ has done for you in Holy Baptism. He is your Andy. But instead of a black sharpie, Jesus takes the best permanent marker there is – his own precious blood – and he engraves forever His name upon your forehead. Out with your old name and in with the new: Baptized. Beloved. Holy. Saint. God’s own child, I gladly say it. You belong to Christ now. You’re loved and cared for by Jesus. You’re Jesus’ own treasured possession. You’re part of the family, adopted in Baptism and given his Name and all the rights of children – an eternal inheritance. Jesus has done everything to keep and protect you, even laying down his own life for you.
So the next time you’re in the bathroom look to the place where God’s name is placed upon you with blood and water. You may not be able to see it in the mirror, but it’s there all the same. You are forever marked as one redeemed by Christ the Crucified. Fast away your old sin passes…hail, your new name, lads and lasses. Christ Crucified has taken away your sin and given you a new name. 

For wherever he places his Name he is there to bless you. It was true in 2013 and it will be true in 2014 as well. The name of Jesus’ doesn’t go out of style. His forgiveness isn’t some passing fad or trend. This gracious, outrageous forgiveness is timeless, just as His name declares.

His Name is Jesus for he saves you from your sins.

A Blessed New Year.

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

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