1 January 2008Luke 2:15-21
"After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb". (v.21)
Happy New Year! And no it's not a hangover from last night - we
did read these verses only a couple of days ago but we do so now
for a different reason!
Jewish law requires that every boy be circumcised on the eighth day after his birth as the sign and seal of the Covenant that God made with Abraham (Genesis 17). In this covenant, God promised that Abraham would be the ancestor of a multitude of nations and give him and his descendants the land of Canaan. This ceremony of circumcision was so important that it could be carried out even on a Sabbath day when every act that was not absolutely essential was forbidden.
Jesus would also have shared this experience. The American writer and preacher Donald Grey Barnhouse suggests that, "His circumcision was his first suffering for us".
Paul speaks of circumcision a number of times in his letters (eg:Romans 2:28-29; Galatians 6:15; Philippians 3:1-3; Colossians 2:10-11) but makes different theological points on each occasion.
The name that was given to this child is not unique. 'Jesus' is the New Testament equivalent of 'Joshua' - one of the great figures of the Old Testament - and means "Jehovah is salvation". But in reminding us that this was the name given by the angel to Mary (see Luke 1:31) Luke is wanting us to know that this Jesus will not simply carry the name 'saviour' but in himself be the saviour.
In Christian terms are outward ceremonies still important? What are the messages they convey?
Does the name Jesus need to be reclaimed in 21st century Britain? How might we go about this?
What are your resolutions for 2008? Might any of them relate to this passage?