Happy New Year, grace and peace in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!
Our gospel for today (Luke 2:21) is only a short verse: And after the eight days to circumcise the child, they called his name JESUS; Which was given to him by the angel before he was conceived in the womb. We begin the New Year with this reading because this first Sunday in January is almost eight days after Christmas.
Eight days after his birth, the Baby Jesus was circumcised and formally received His name. The name "Jesus" is equal to "Joshua". In the Old Testament reading (Joshua 24: 14-24). Joshua said farewell to the people of Israel. He was the faithful man who led the people at their entrance into the Promised Land. Moses died before the event, but Joshua completed the work, according to the promise that God made to Moses. In Hebrew, Joshua means "The Lord saves us" or "The Lord is my Savior." Translated into Aramaic and again translated into Greek, the name "Jesus" is equal to "Joshua."
Circumcision was the entrance of the male child into the community of Israel. Today male children receive circumcision at the hospital for hygienic reasons. However, at that time, circumcision meant that the child's seed would be the seed of Abraham and heirs of the promises of God to Abraham.
With the birth of Jesus Christ, His life, death and resurrection, all the promises were fulfilled that God made to Abraham and the patriarchs of Israel. God made a new covenant in the blood of Christ with all nations. So all who believe in Jesus Christ are heirs of Abraham. The church, the assembly of believers in Jesus, is now the people of God, the new Israel. St. Peter called the church a holy nation and royal priesthood, the same words applied to Israel in the Old Testament (Exodus 19: 5-6).
For us, baptism has replaced circumcision. Our children do not need a mark on their bodies to be known as the seed of Abraham, in the water and the Word we have the seal of the promise of eternal life. In our text St. Paul says thus: For as many as have been baptized into Christ are clothed with Christ.
Our sins are covered by the righteousness of Christ. In baptism we receive the righteousness of Christ, also His name. He was known not only as Jesus, but also Christ, that is, the Messiah. The disciples of Jesus were first called Christians in the city of Antioch (Acts 11:26). In the name of Christ, we are saints of God. Not by our own strength, but by faith in Christ.
St. Paul says: So the law was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But when faith comes, we are no longer under a teacher; For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus.
For us who believe in Christ, the law is like a measuring-stick. How do we live as children of God? The law teaches us, You love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength. And the second part of the law is, You love your neighbor as yourself. How do we do this? Not by our own righteousness, but by the work of the Holy Spirit in baptism.
Therefore, we do not obey the law for fear of punishment, because in Christ we are free from condemnation. Also in Christ we know the love of God, because God sent his only Son to suffer our punishment and to die on the cross in our places. Our motive is to show others the love that God has shown us in Christ, not out of fear of punishment.
All receive the gift of faith and the blessing of God in baptism equally. St. Paul says: There is neither Jew nor Greek; There is neither a servant nor a free one; There is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Today many people interpret this verse to apply to politics. In a sense, the concept of human rights is based on the idea that all human beings are creatures of God. Every human being has value in the eyes of God, no matter his or her state in this world. Therefore, everyone has basic rights and a good government must recognize these rights.
However, according to the order of creation, there are still distinctions in the status of human beings. Some are males, some are females. They all have their own ethnicity. There are rich and poor too.
But this verse does not speak of the earthly state, but the spiritual state. We are all sinners and deserve the condemnation of God. At the same time, all receive by grace the same promise of eternal life. We are equal in redemption.
We all have blessings in this life. We all have trials and difficulties. All these things will pass. But the Word of God will not pass. In this we have peace that surpasses all understanding. Amen.
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