Introit: Psalm 40
Old Testament: Numbers 6:22-27
Gradual: Hebrews 8:10; 10:17
Epistle: Galatians 3:23-29
Holy Gospel: Luke 2:21
God called Abraham by name, called him out of a land of idol worship, and gave him some big promises. That all might call upon the Name of the Lord and be saved. When God gave Abraham the covenant of circumcision it was to seal with certainty the promise that God had given, the promise that He would fulfill in the flesh and blood of His own Son, born from the family of Abraham in the fullness of time.
In Genesis chapter 17, God commanded this sign of the covenant to Abraham, that every male child on the eighth day should be circumcised. There’s no way of getting around it that it’s strange. But God does such very strange things. It’s painful. It causes embarrassment and shame. It causes blood. When a jewish boy was circumcised, he had a physical sign, a confessional mirror telling him that he was a sinner in need of God’s mercy. But by the removal of the foreskin, males also received a visible sign of God’s promise to send a Savior, born of the woman. No Hebrew man could live a day without being reminded of the promise God had been made long before, and every marital act between a husband and wife would illustrate the hope that God was working to restore creation and redeem all people. Also, it should not be missed, that the shedding of blood pointed to the final redemption by the shedding of Christ’s holy blood.
Circumcision was confirmed at Mount Sinai, and the Law was given to set God’s people apart, both in heart and body, to live by faith and by love. They would worship the Lord in fear, love, and trust. They would hear God’s Word and call upon His holy name.
The Law was also a guardian, a stern teacher, also to discipline the flesh, to show us our sin, and to point to the Life of Christ, God in the flesh, in whom the Law is ratified, fulfilled, and completed. As they saw their sins, the Law also described the One who would be their Savior, the only One who would live in perfect faith toward God and love for the neighbor, for you, for me, the man Christ Jesus.
So this morning on the eight day of Christmas, an amazing thing is happening in that short Gospel text you heard. On the eight day, the Son of God, was circumcised, and was called Jesus. This is the fulfilment of the Old Testament covenant. Finally, a boy will be bound to this law, shed his blood under this law, and actually keep this law, indeed fulfil it for us.
We Lutherans talk a lot about Jesus dying for our sins, as we should, we call this passive righteousness: Jesus dies for us. That’s passive righteousness. What often slips by in our thinking, is Jesus active righteousness. That he actually places Himself under the law through circumcision for your sake, not for his own, so that He might redeem you from the under the curse of the law.
All those commandments, written with the finger of God on stone tablets, that law even written upon your heart, which you fail at – rebel against every day! Those commandments, that law, that Father’s will, to this Jesus gladly obeys. Jesus, through the prophet David, declares, “Lo, I have come to do thy will.” And not for His sake but for yours.
Christ comes into the flesh at Christmas, not just to be a cute baby in a manger scene but to fulfil the demands of the Law perfectly for us. What we have not done, and could not do, Jesus can do and has done! He is given the name Jesus – meaning simply, the Lord saves.
But his shedding of blood as an 8-day year old baby also foreshadows his passive obedience because this child already from birth suffers the consequences for our failure to keep the law: which is death. Into his infant flesh was cut a wound. His blood flowed and pointed to a greater blood shed still to come. The blood that would spill from his pores in the garden of gethsemane when he contemplated the price it would cost to save you. Blood to pore from his pierced hands and feet as ransom for the guilt of the whole human race – that he might save us all. He was cut, as our circumcision, cut off from the land of the living, for your sake in bitter death, as an atoning sacrifice, to reconcile you to God the Father.
Neither circumcision nor the curse of the law are placed on your shoulders anymore. He has bore both in His flesh. St. Paul writes in Colossians 2: “In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, buried with Him, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.
It’s all about baptism, the greater gift. Circumcision has no further mandate in the Christian church, just as animal sacrifices now have no place. Christ is the end and the fulfilment. You are released from the curse of the law by Your Lord and Savior. You are all sons of God, heirs according to promise, true offspring of Abraham by faith.
A happy a blessed new Year under the Lordship of Christ, who has baptized you and washed you clean. Who Gives you a fresh start to serve him in righteousness and purity forever, with a good and clean conscience. Today Jesus blesses us with His holy name and saves us with His blood. In the name of Jesus. Amen.