Today we have entered into a new year. Our Lord was born 2,017 years ago. Last night the world partied away, and now it sleeps. But Our Lord does not sleep. He remains ever active. While we celebrated His Birth a week ago, His work has just begun. Last week the angels told us why He came. Today He shows us. Today we see what He’s all about. Today He is circumcised and receives His Name, Jesus.
God had given circumcision to Abraham. He received it when he was 99 years old, right before he heard the promise of Isaac. The rite set apart him and his son and his son’s sons and all the children of Israel from the world. It set apart the faithful from the ungodly. It reminded them that they passed on Adam’s sin to their children. It reminded them that their sins would be washed away and cut off by The One circumcised this day to save us.
You are no different from they. You have received Adam’s sin from your fathers. They have passed it on to you, and if you haven’t yet, you will pass it on to your children if God so blesses you with them. You pass on Adam’s sin of unbelief and wicked desires. It infects us all. “From sire to son the bane descends,” and there is no escape. It’s why our parties often can end with regrets, why our new year’s resolutions never make it far, why our lives are not the perfect joys we wish they were. It’s why we look on jealously at what others have, why we are never content with what God has given us, why things always get more important in life than God’s Word. Adam’s sin is at the root of all our trouble and turmoil and sin, and we are unable to escape it on our own power.
We are unable to escape sin. That means we are unable to keep God’s Law. God desires that we keep it. Sin is not keeping His Law. He desires us to keep it completely, cover to cover, end to end. He doesn’t want just bits and pieces kept. He doesn’t want you to choose which parts you like and which parts you don’t. He wants it all kept. All Ten Commandments, not just the “You shall nots” but also the “you shalls” that Dr. Luther makes clear for us in The Catechism. Keep it all, He says, and do it all the time. But you don’t. You sin. You do what is evil and don’t do what is good. Eternal death is what you deserve.
Yet Our Lord is circumcised to cut off sin. He wants to take it out of us. He wants to get rid of it. He wants to cast it off into the fires and to purify us. He began that work on this day. When He was circumcised, He declared that He was going to keep God’s entire Law completely, cover to cover, beginning to end. He was going to do everything it says we should do and not do everything it says we should not do.
But why should He do that? He gave it! Shouldn’t He be over The Law, not under it? His purpose was this. You have broken The Law. You deserve to be punished for this. He kept The Law for your sake. That means what He did is credited to you. God says since Jesus kept it completely, you have too. He says you no longer deserve to be punished, because He no longer sees that you haven’t done His Law.
But His Blood was shed when He was circumcised. This points ahead to His Crucifixion. He kept The Law for us because we haven’t. But our sins must still be punished. The Law still needs to be fulfilled which says sin must be paid for in human blood, perfect human blood. So the only One with perfect human Blood shed His Blood on The Cross. For Christ The Lord is not born to live a happy life, but to die for you, that He might win for you the forgiveness of all your sins.
Therefore His Name is Jesus. The angel told Joseph to give Him this Name because He would save His people from their sins. The Name in Hebrew is Joshua. It means “The LORD saves.” Moses gave the first Joshua this name to confess that they played no part in Israel’s rescue from Egypt or in their entering into The Promised Land, but it was The LORD Who made it happen from beginning to end. The LORD saved them from their slavery in Egypt and finally brought them into Canaan. The LORD saved them at the Red Sea and brought them across River Jordan and gave them the land promised Abraham. It was not their power. It was His.
Now this Name is given to The Child, and it receives added significance. For this is no ordinary week-old boy. This is God made Man. This is The LORD Himself, the very God Who saved Israel from Egypt. Now this Name is doing something. It’s proclaiming what’s about to happen. This Baby born of Mary is going to save. He has no choice. It’s His destiny, the only reason He’s here on earth. He’s come to save, to rescue us from sin, death, and the devil. He’s come to save, not by giving you works to do, but with His holy precious Blood and His innocent Suffering and Death.
He has saved you. His Blood has washed away your sin. His Death has killed your death. His Resurrection has won for you everlasting life. He wants to cut off your sin. But He has replaced circumcision. He has given us Holy Baptism instead. At the font He places His Name on you to save you. The water connected to His Name, The Name of The Blessed Holy Trinity, washes away your sin and joins you to Jesus. It makes you not just children of Abraham, the father of all who believe, but of God The Father Himself. It makes this Baby born of Mary your Brother dear. You belong to God, not to sin. Sin is cut off from you. You are free from it. You are forgiven!
What does that mean for you in this new year? It means the same thing that it meant last year and the year before that. Don’t let sin get the better of you. Don’t give in to it. Don’t desire to do it. Desire to please your heavenly Father and your Brother dear. Mortify your flesh and your sinful passions. Put them to death. Nail them to Jesus’ Cross. Bury them in His Tomb. Tell Satan to get behind you for you are baptized into Christ.
But you will fail at times. Don’t take that to mean you shouldn’t worry about mortifying your flesh. Take that to mean you can’t mortify your flesh on your own. You need Jesus’ help. You need Him to circumcise your heart and take what isn’t His away. You need Him to write His Name on your heart, His Law within your inward parts (TLH 115:5).
How does He do that? He wrote His Name on you at the font. He continues to circumcise your heart, circumcised in the waters, whenever you confess your sins and are absolved, whenever you hear His Gospel preached, whenever you eat His Body and drink His Blood at this Altar. This is how He works, how He always works, how He worked last year and the year before, how He’ll work as long as time exists. Turn to Him for help where He may be found, in His Word and Sacrament, and He will provide. He will help you. So resolve this year to be found with Him in His house forever. (Here follows TLH 116:6.)
Therefore we in love adoring This most blessed Name revere. Holy Jesus, Thee imploring So to write it in us here That hereafter, heavenward soaring, We may sing with angels there.