Happy New Year!

January 1st, 2014
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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. The Gospel for the Festival of the Circumcision and Name of Jesus, Luke 2:21

Now greet the swiftly changing year, with joy and penitence sincere.
Remember now the Son of God and how He shed His infant blood.
This Jesus cam to end sin’s war; this Name of names for He bore.
His love abundant far exceeds the volume of a whole year’s needs
Rejoice! Rejoice! With thanks embrace another year of grace!
Lutheran Service Book, Hymn 896

Today the Church observes the Circumcision and Name of our Lord Jesus Christ. And it is appropriate to do s particularly on this the first day of the “new” year. What makes a year “new”? It is all rather arbitrary, is it not? We know that calendars have changed over the centuries. What we can say for a certainty is that some 365 days ago we were at this very point in space in our planet’s orbit around the sun, which, in its turn, is making its way in the cosmos as part of our galaxy, which is but one of countless other galaxies making their way out across the vast and unthinkably far reaches of the universe. It is enough to make one’s head reel with dizzy contemplation of the vastness both of space and time in which we exist. And it is precisely into this time, and into this place, that the Infant King broke into our reality, the Son of God, the Word, was made flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth. And on this day we remember the first shedding of His innocent blood as payment for our sin, as the ransom, that won us from sin, death and the devil. We recall His circumcision, done to fulfill all righteousness, on the eighth day of his life, as commanded in the Old Testament law of God, a Law he came to fufilll, entirely and completely for you and for me. And on this day, just as the angel told St. Joseph, His name was formally given: Jesus. It is a name that in Hebrew means, literally, “Yahweh saves.” Indeed, He does!

And so our Old Testament reading for today is from Numbers 6:22-27, the great tripart Aaronic benediction, bringing to mind the Name into which we are baptized, and the Name with which we are blessed our whole life through at the conclusion of the Divine Service, when the Lord’s minister pronounces it upon us. The Epistle, Galatians 3:23-29, explains the ramifications of our Lord’s submission to the Law of God: freedom for us by means of justification by grace through faith! Praise be to God.

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  1. Paul T. McCain
    January 2nd, 2008 at 06:48 | #1

    One could become quite involved in all a host of minute biological observations about the entire gestation of Christ in the womb, but it is best to stick with this thought, well expressed by Dr. Walther:
    The drops of blood Christ shed at His circumcision were the first of the payments He made for the immeasurable debts of the world’s sin. Oh, let us in faith and with joy embrace the holy Christ Child who today so willingly submitted Himself to the most humble divine Law for us. Now no law we have transgressed can damn us. Now God Himself, whom we have offended, can no longer be angry with us. Now, like the old year itself, all our old sins have eternally disappeared. — C. F. W. Walther, *God Grant It!* p. 89

  2. Pr. Jim Roemke
    January 2nd, 2008 at 07:13 | #2

    Thanks for clearing that up, Matthew. I had wondered about that myself, but I guess I just assumed it was the mother’s blood. I wonder if the baby feels anything when the umbilical cord is cut?

  3. Matthew Surburg
    January 2nd, 2008 at 09:07 | #3

    Pastor McCain, since Christ was fully man, all of the “minute biological observations” one can make would apply. I have neither the desire nor the expertise (were I so inclined) to argue with the theological conclusions drawn by you or Dr. Walther. The point is simply that Christ’s blood was in fact shed (would I exaggerate to add “for us”? Here I am out of my depth theologically) the night of his birth.
    As to Pastor Roemke’s question, there is no evidence of there being any nerve endings in the umbilical cord, so there is probably no pain involved. But then, who of us remembers? We can conclude that the main thing a baby feels, being wet and naked, is COLD.

  4. Bror Erickson
    January 2nd, 2008 at 09:11 | #4

    When Christ was born he did not thereby put himself under the law for us in the shedding of whatever blood was shed there. With his circumcision He put his manhood under the Law’s knife to enter a covenant God made with sinful man for their salvation. He had no reason to do this for himself, as he was sinless. He made the down payment for our sins with his blood, to fulfill this covenant in blood. Something we men could not do for ourselves. He, however, did fulfill this covenant with his blood, so that his blood would become the source of the New Testament, shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. That did not happen at his birth, but eight days later when he was named, Jesus.

  5. Terry Maher (Past Elder)
    January 1st, 2012 at 14:38 | #5

    Among other things, this festival reminds me of how glad I am to be Lutheran. Rome, from whence I came, has removed it from its calendar. Which fits, in a not so good way. But we keep it, for exactly the reasons Walther mentions! So in addition to what is said in the post, this day also reminds me how great it is to be in the catholic church rather than the Catholic Church.

  6. Robert F
    January 1st, 2012 at 16:33 | #6

    When the Scriptures use the word “blood” in reference to Jesus’ sacrifice and atonement for us, doesn’t the word mean his life, as opposed to just the literal blood itself? And if this is so, his very Incarnation at its beginning constituted the beginning of his sacrifice, because he entered a world of suffering and death brought in by the sin of the Fall. I think, generally speaking, when the Old Testament refers to the blood of a sacrifice, this is a reference to the entire life of the victim. Jesus entire life was a sacrifice for us, culminating in his bloody death on the Cross.

    • January 1st, 2012 at 16:41 | #7

      “Without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins” (Hebrews 9:22) and “The blood of Jesus, His Son, cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).

      Blood does in fact mean the literal blood and because that blood was shed Jesus gave his life for us.

      I’m not really sure what point you are driving at, Robert. Perhaps you could clarify.

  7. Robert F
    January 1st, 2012 at 17:23 | #8

    I think what I’m saying is quite clear, whether it is correct or not. “Blood” in the Bible is a way of referring to the entire life of the victim, including the death, within the context of sacrificial language. Jesus didn’t just start paying the price for our sins on Good Friday. Every encounter of his life with the sin around him was part of the Atonement he offered for us. That’s why he was able to offer forgiveness in the very midst of his life, before his death, and even offer his own Body and Blood at the Last Supper before he went to the Cross, before he died. Or do you believe that he did not really give his Body and Blood at the Last Supper?

    • January 1st, 2012 at 17:29 | #9

      Robert, you are overthinking this. The Scriptures are clear that the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin. He gave his life for us. You are trying to make a distinction, that lacks a difference.

  8. Carlray
    January 1st, 2012 at 20:09 | #10

    I don’t know if this will be a “happy new year” but I would wish you a Blessed New Year!

    • January 2nd, 2012 at 10:56 | #11

      Oh, please, every year is “happy” while we are privileged to live in God’s grace in Christ.

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