Luke 2:21 “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.”
When you count off eight days from December 25 (the day of Jesus’ birth), you come to January 1 (the day of his circumcision).
So while the world around us observes the beginning of a new solar year in time, we Christians celebrate the circumcision of a Jewish boy 2000 years ago and in doing so, the first of January becomes for us not just another notch in time, not just another passing year, but a genuine link with eternity through the flesh of God’s own Son.
The circumcision of Jesus may seem like an odd event to even remember much less celebrate–but some eternally important things for our salvation happened in this moments of our Lord’s life, things that we ought to remember and rejoice in this evening. PAUSE
It is in this moment that we first see Jesus actively fulfilling the Law in our place. Though his entire life was one of perfect obedience to the Law of his Heavenly Father in place of our disobedience, we see his obedience to the Law first as he was circumcised in keeping with the demands of the ancient covenant.
It is in this moment that we first see Jesus suffering and bleeding for our sins. While Jesus he suffered and shed his life’s blood on Calvary’s cross to pay for our sins, his first shed blood upon this sin-filled earth was at his circumcision.
Therefore the name he was given in this ceremony: Jesus, the LORD saves--not only signified what he would do, but what he had already begun to do, in these moments, at just eight days old: the salvation of the world by his holy life and bloody death.
And so this evening, we not only look forward to a New Year, but we also look back to the very beginning of our salvation. The Bible says
“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.”
Every Son of Israel was given his name at the time of circumcision. So our Lord was also given his name by Joseph.
But his was no ordinary name! His name was literally given from heaven, announced by an angel to both Mary and Joseph at his conception. The angel told Joseph: “You are to give him the name Jesus, because he shall save his people from their sins.”
And so this tiny bundle of humanity was given the strong name of Jesus: the LORD saves! A name signifying not only what he would do in saving the world-- but who he was–none other than the one true Savior God, the LORD, in the human flesh of a newborn baby boy.
Jesus grew up from that moment on, to fulfill that name in the most wonderful of ways for us and for our salvation.
All that God’s Holy Law demands from you and me, all that we have failed to do over this past year, Jesus fulfilled perfectly and completely–in all his thoughts, words, and deeds-- holy and righteous in his heavenly Father’s sight.
When we think back over the past year, when we reflect on our obedience to our heavenly Father’s will, we see that we have failed in countless ways to please him in thought, word, and deed.
Jesus’ circumcision began a perfect life of obedience for us, in our place–a life lived in perfect agreement with his Father’s will–a holy life that God counts as our own when we believe in Jesus.
And so we go forward in this New Year confident in God’s grace, knowing that the Father is pleased with our lives on account of Christ’s holy life-- and that we are his children because we are connected by faith and baptism to his Son.
All that you and I by our sins deserved, the punishment and death, the forsaken-ness by God-- Jesus suffered patiently and thoroughly (once for all) in our place on Calvary’s cross. God the Father laid upon him the iniquity of us all and it crushed the life from him.
For our salvation and to give us new life he was crucified, died, and was buried and rose from the grave on the third day with the promise that death is not the end for those who trust in him. PAUSE With the passing of time we cannot help but be reminded that one day, time will come to an end for us, and we too will pass from this earth.
But Jesus’ story is one of new, eternal life for us and for all people because he was physically raised from the dead on the third day to give us new life. New life here in time and in eternity and a fresh start for us in this New Year.
We go forward in this New Year confident of God’s grace knowing that through faith in the name of Jesus, we have already passed from death to life and we have nothing to fear when we pass from this life into the eternal presence of our Savior God. The Bible says that this is why:
God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that 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. And what a blessing it is for us to know that: There is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved. PAUSE
The Name of Jesus and all the blessings that it conveys is the best of news of all for us as we begin this New Year.
The world around us is filled with uncertainty and bad news. Where will our leaders take us? What will happen in war torn areas around the globe? What will the economy do? What will this New Year bring for my job and my family and my health? How will we handle the changes and chances of life in this New Year?
The Good News for us this evening is that by the grace and help of God we will handle all of it –both the blessings and the struggles--in the strong, saving name of Jesus. PAUSE
Now, there’s nothing magical about the name of Jesus in and of itself–it was a common name then and in some communities it’s still a common name.
Rather, the power in the name of Jesus is the power and authority of the Son of God himself and that power is ours as we go forth in this New Year in his Name. So what does that mean for us practically in 2019? IT MEANS THAT:
1. When we pray in the name of Jesus, our heavenly Father regards it as Jesus’ prayer and so we can be confident that our prayers are heard and answered by our heavenly Father for Jesus’ sake to our eternal good.
2. When the Word of God is preached in the name of Jesus, it is the authority of Jesus Christ himself that stands behind that word: calling us to repent of our sins and assuring us that we are forgiven and guiding us in how to live a life that is pleasing too God.
3. When we Christians give a cup of cold water in the name of Jesus or perform some other act of mercy or good work in this new year in his holy name, we can be confident that it is Jesus himself working through our hands and feet and lips to provide for the needs of our neighbor so that our charity and good works and gifts are a real participation in Jesus’ redemptive work of love in this dark and dying world.
In summary, it means that whatever we do in the name of Jesus, whether in word or in deed in this New Year, we give glory to God and we can count on his presence and blessing in our lives and homes–our marriages and families
This evening, the clock will tick down on another year for planet earth and the big shiny ball will fall in Times Square.
But in this moment, we Christians gather together to gain a firmer grip on eternal things: to receive forgiveness for our sins–to hear the Good News that gives eternal life–to thank God for his blessings over the last year and to seek his blessing for the year to come–and in these ways to prepare for the eternity we will spend in God’s presence.
Confronted by the relentless march of time and the approach of death, the unbelieving world thinks it is better to spend life in drunkenness and carousing than to have to confront the terrifying truth that for each of them time will come to an end.
But we Christians rejoice tonight, even in passing years and approaching death, knowing that when time comes to an end for us, it is not the end of us at all, but the beginning of a new life that will last forever.
And so in the name of Jesus we begin the new year confident and secure and at peace. And if, in this year, the day comes that we depart this earthly life, we still will have nothing to fear, for then we will die as we lived —in the strong, saving name of Jesus. Amen.