Blog / Book of the Month / The Lord’s Gifts Given on the Eighth Day of Christmas / Luke 2:21 / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday January 1st 2023 / Season of Christmas - Circumcision and Name of Jesus/ Mount Olive Lutheran Church

The Lord’s Gifts Given on the Eighth Day of Christmas / Luke 2:21 / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday January 1st 2023 / Season of Christmas - Circumcision and Name of Jesus/ Mount Olive Lutheran Church

The Lord’s Gifts Given on the Eighth Day of Christmas / Luke 2:21 / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday January 1st 2023 / Season of Christmas - Circumcision and Name of Jesus/ Mount Olive Lutheran Church

Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday January 1st 2023: Season of Christmas - Circumcision and Name of Jesus/ Luke 2:21 "The Lord’s Gifts Given on the Eighth Day of Christmas”

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.

Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in Your sight O Lord. Amen.

Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. Wouldn’t be nice to have forty-eight hours in the day, or perhaps eight days in a week? With a little extra time maybe you could get a little more done. But what would you do with that extra time? God being the one who created time does things with it that we cannot do and today and every Lord’s Day, every Sunday, we can be thankful for this. ‘Why bring up the idea of an eighth day when every week we have seven days? I thought we were here to meditate on the circumcision and naming of the Lord?’ Yes we are, and we will, but did you notice in our short Gospel reading that it starts “at the end of eight days,” not at the end of seven days or nine days but eight days, that’s a curious thing isn’t it? Then it talks about two other details, the ones you’re expecting Jesus’ circumcision and His naming, but perhaps we can shed a little extra unexpected light on those details too. So let’s consider all of these things on this first day of a new calendar year.

Now we are in the season of Christmas and one of the details of the account of Jesus’ birth is His clothing which by the way, as it turns out, is a detail with its own connection to our Lord’s circumcision. No sooner had He been born and the Virgin Mary His mother swaddled Him in cloths and laid Him in a manger covering His nakedness. When the shepherds of Bethlehem came to see the Christ Child that is how they found Him “wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger,” just as the angel said to them.[1] Now here’s the connection: when you look at a crucifix you’ll regularly see the Lord hung upon the cross with a cloth around His waist, you see this on the crucifix I wear, and on the various ones we have around the Church here at Mount Olive, you’ll find it like this pretty much all over the place; as Christians for centuries we have provided the Christ more modesty in our depictions of His death than the Romans who crucified Him provided. Think of the Gospel of Saint John, “When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, [we are told] they took His garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also His tunic. But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom, [this by the way was His undergarment] so they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.” This was to fulfill the Scripture which says,

         “They divided my garments among them,

                 and for my clothing they cast lots.”[2]

         So [the Gospel of Saint John tells us] the soldiers did these things, but standing by the cross of Jesus were His mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.”[3] Now going back to our Gospel today why would this be important? Today we remember that the Lord was circumcised, how His mother and Joseph her husband, His guardian, took Him to the Temple to be circumcised and at the cross it was plain as day for everyone around Him there to see that the man hung there was indeed a Jew, that He had received the prescribed circumcision and in this way fulfilled the law.

Back in the book of Genesis God said to Abraham, who at the time was already a very old man ninety-nine years of age, “You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and you. He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised. Every male throughout your generations,”[4] (there’s that eight day stuff again). Again later after God rescued the Children of Israel out of Egypt, lead by Moses, circumcision became part of what is often referred to as the Law of Moses but what was really the Law of God, when in Leviticus we hear how when a woman gave birth to a male child, “on the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised.”[5] In His circumcision our Lord fulfilled this law and He also entered into same covenant, same agreement that Abraham had first entered into,[6] when God said to Abraham, “I am God Almighty; walk before Me, and be blameless, that I may make My covenant between Me and you, and may multiply you greatly.”[7] Our Lord did walk blameless before His heavenly Father[8] and in His crucifixion and the events that followed it God the Father fulfilled this promise, the book of Genesis gives us a little more detail as to what the fulfillment of that promise would look like; God said to Abraham, “I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you. And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.”

In this Child, in this the very Son of God, our heavenly Father has blessed the whole world,[9] and through the generations, through the centuries nations have come to faith, and kings and queens and leaders of all sorts, and we with them are part of an everlasting kingdom which shall have no end[10] and when this world is worn out like a garment[11] we will go to an eternal kingdom, a Promised Land beyond our expectations,[12] and in this Christ Jesus His heavenly Father becomes our heavenly Father and He becomes our God by Baptism.[13] Each male child of the Jewish people received the promise that God would be their God and Jesus on the eighth day after His birth received this same promise which is now passed to you not by circumcision but in baptism, because after Christ was circumcised no male infants were required to be circumcised ever again, our Lord had fulfilled the Law of Moses,[14] families are of course free to do this for their male infants but they are no longer obligated to do so by the Law of God in Christ.[15] Consider the way Saint Paul teaches about this, “In Him [that is in the Lord] also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised with Him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised Him from the dead.”[16] So it is that in the circumcision of the Lord all of these things were set in motion, even your very redemption and salvation.[17] In the Temple on the eighth day of the Christ Child’s life He shed His blood for you to keep the law, and on the cross of His crucifixion He shed the last of His blood that He would shed to fulfill the law in His death,[18] and in your baptism you receive all of this along with all the promises of God in Him.[19]

One last thought before we move over to the significance of the naming of the Christ Child. Think again of the Lord hung their nailed to the wood of the tree of His crucifixion:[20] He is as naked there on the cross as Adam was in the garden of Eden[21] as Adam, near the very beginning of time, watched his wife Eve eat of the forbidden fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, the sin that triggered the fall and brought death into the World.[22] Our Lord was as naked as Adam when Adam ate of the fruit Himself, cementing original sin into their future offspring,[23] and at the cross this Christ, as naked as if He had been there in Adam’s place in the garden of Eden, resisted the temptations of the devil, remained sinless. The Christ Child born without original sin as a grown man who was still without sin, at the tree of His crucifixion took on all the sin of the whole World from Adam and Eve to you and me[24] and there in that place died to set us free.[25] Christ is the new Adam, the new Adam who did not fail us, but rather fulfilled every law of His heavenly Father without fault in Righteousness.[26] 

Now you may have noticed I haven’t used the name Jesus for the Christ very much in this sermon up to this point and that is because we are now going to think about this name and His naming. In William Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet he uses this line, “What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet.” This may be true in some ways but with the Christ Child it is not so. Had the Virgin Mary and Joseph given a different name when the Child was presented for circumcision at the Temple, a name like Bob or Richard or Harry, they would have been going against the message they had received from the angels sent by God. They were faithful to what they were commanded: It is always good to follow what is prescribed by God.

The name “Jesus,” which is an English version of the same Old Testament name translated as “Joshua,” has deep Hebrew roots meaning “the Lord is salvation.” A shortened version of the name of the LORD, YHWH, is Yah so as in other languages the “J” is more a “Y” sound. Languages like German among others retain that. The more important thing is that the very name Jesus would be understood by everyone of a Jewish background as meaning “the Lord is salvation.” Whenever they heard that name they instantly know that name means “the Lord is salvation.” So Mary and Joseph are told to give the Child this name and they do, and through His life He is called Jesus, “the Lord is salvation.” And then in His crucifixion Pontius Pilot the Roman Governor of the Province of Palestine has put above Jesus’ thorn crowned head the inscription, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.”[27] So basically “The Lord is salvation, this man from Nazareth is the King of the Jews,” some those who knew what this meant disliked this but Pilot wanted everyone to be able to read it so the inscription was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek.[28] There would be no mistaking who this was, no way of avoiding that in this death was the very salvation of the Lord, that this Jesus was as was promised the one who would save His people from their sin. Think back to the angel who came to Joseph in the dream saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” [The Gospel of Saint Matthew continues saying] All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

         “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,

                 and they shall call His name Immanuel”

(which means, God with us).[29]

At the cross of His crucifixion Jesus—who was right there “with us” in His suffering and death, who was saving us from our sins—had the two very things He received at His circumcision and naming at the Temple on display, front and centre, for all who looked upon Him to see, the mark of the knife from when He first shed His blood for you and the name above all names given so you and all people would know that He is the Salvation of the LORD in the flesh. And the Virgin Mary who was there the day of Jesus’ circumcision and naming was there at the foot of the cross to see these cherished signs on display. Some looked upon them, looked upon the Christ, with derision and disdain and some looked upon them with eyes of faith that understood by the grace of God what it was that they were looking upon.[30] We now are invited to remember that this Jesus was a real man and the Son of God,[31] who truly shed His innocent blood for us from the beginning of His life to the end. But what about that eighth day stuff. Let’s cap everything off today with a quick look at the significance of this detail.

In the account of Creation we hear, “thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished His work that He had done, and He rested on the seventh day ... So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all His work that He had done in creation.”[32] So through time the seventh day of the week was a day of rest for those with faith in God. Sunday is the first day of the week so that makes Saturday the seventh day of the week. Holy week, the week of Jesus’ passion started with His Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem on Sunday,[33] and we remembered this detail at the beginning of the season of Advent, on the Friday of that week Jesus is crucified, and now we call that day Good Friday. The last thing Jesus says on the cross as He dies, as He gives up His spirit, is “It is finished,”[34] On the Saturday then of that week Jesus rests in the tomb[35] on the seventh day of the week just as He and the Father and the Holy Spirit rested on the seventh day after the work of creation in the beginning, “it is finished.” And then what happened the day after that Saturday? On the first day of the week, on Sunday, on the ‘eighth day’ Jesus was raised from the dead.[36] Jesus’ circumcision and name day marked a new beginning, and His resurrection from the dead on the eighth day marked a new beginning for you, for me for all people.  Eight Days from His birth the Christ Child was named and circumcised; eight Days from His Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem this same Jesus was risen from the dead never to die again.[37]

The promises of God are fulfilled in this Child we remember today, as one who was long foretold, whose works of salvation were long laid out before Him. He followed that straight and narrow path without fault and now you have this day, the Lord’s Day, an ‘eighth day’ of your own: a day for forgiveness, for a fresh start. For our part we are tempted to hang onto the past, hang on to our sins, hang on to our old self yet in confession and absolution we are tenderly invited to seek the mercy of the Lord and receive the cutting away of our sin,[38] in Holy Communion you receive this promised Saviour by faith for the forgiveness of your sins and your strength.[39] In Christ you are given a new name; you are a child of His heavenly Father, this Christ Child, this Jesus is now your brother. This is all eighth day stuff.  

I started asking “wouldn’t be nice to have forty-eight hours in the day, or perhaps eight days in a week? With a little extra time maybe you could get a little more done. But what would you do with that extra time?” And I said “God being the one who created time does things with it that we cannot do and today and every Lord’s Day, every Sunday, we can be thankful for this.” It’s not what we would do with an eighth day; it is what God in Christ Jesus has done with that eighth day. Every Sunday now is an eighth day for you, the day of your salvation made know, upon which you are free to hear God’s Word and receive His gifts of salvation no longer as ones under the guardianship of the law, for it has been fulfilled and finished in Christ, but as ones who live under Jesus in His kingdom, no longer as slaves to the law but as sons and daughters of the heavenly Father. So we can say: Lord, “so teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom,”[40] and perhaps, in our numbering of those days, to always remember Sunday as the eighth day, the New Day, the new day for you. Amen.

Let us pray:

Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.

[1] Luke 2:12
[2] Psalm 22:18
[3] John 19:23–25
[4] Genesis 17:11–12
[5] Leviticus 12:3
[6] Galatians 3:16
[7] Genesis 17:1–2
[8] 1 Peter 2:21-23
[9] Isaiah 27:6; 1 John 2:2; Mark 16:15-16; Colossians 1:6
[10] Revelation 21:22-26
[11] Isaiah 51:6; Hebrews 1:10–12
[12] Revelation 7:9-17; Revelation 21:1-8
[13] Romans 6:3-11; 8:16-17; Galatians 3:26-29; 1 John 3:2-3
[14] Romans 8:3–4
[15] Galatians 2:2–5
[16] Colossians 2:11–12
[17] Romans 2:25-29 (Keep in mind with this footnote that Christ Jesus was the only one who received the outward physical sign of circumcision while at the same time keeping the law of God with perfection: Jesus is the only man whose heart was perfectly circumcised as well as His manhood)  
[18] Romans 6:23
[19] Romans 6:5
[20] Deuteronomy 21:22; Galatians 3:13-14; Acts 13:29; 1 Peter 2:24
[21] Genesis 2:25
[22] Genesis 3:6-12
[23] Genesis 3:6
[24] 1 John 2:2
[25] 2 Corinthians 5:21
[26] Romans 5:12-19; 1 Corinthians 15:22; 1 Corinthians 15:45-49
[27] John 19:19
[28] John 19:20
[29] Matthew 1:20–23
[30] John 1:14
[31] Matthew 27:54; Mark 15:39; John 20:26-29
[32] Genesis 2:1–3
[33] Luke 19:28-44
[34] John 19:30
[35] John 19:31-42
[36] John 20:1-18
[37] Romans 6:9
[38] Deuteronomy 10:16; Jeremiah 4:4; Romans 2:28-29
[39] The Sacrament of the Altar, Luther’s Small Catechism, Concordia Publishing House 2017, Pg 28-29; 331-333.
[40] Psalm 90:12

Photo Credits: exclamation mark photomontage, left side statue of the Vigin Mary and the Christ Child from pexels and the right side number eight light from pixabay; detail of pocket watch from pexels; detail of painting of Christ crucified from pixabay; detail of new born feet from pexels; yellow tinted illustration of Adam and Eve from pixabay; detail of a rose from pexels; detail of the name of Jesus from pixabay; detail of yellow tinted illustration of Christ crucified sculpture from pexels; photo of host from the Sacrement of the Altar at Mount Olive from Schultzphotographic.