New Year’s Eve — Luke 2:21
In the Name of Jesus! AMEN!
Beloved in the Lord,
St. Luke records for us our Gospel reading. It is only one verse, but it is a verse packed tight with theology, a theology no longer pregnant but now, the fullness of time having come, it is a theology wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. The virgin has given birth. The seed of Abraham has finally come. The Greater Isaac, God’s only Son, the Son whom He loves, is ready to bear the splinters of God’s wrath upon His shoulders, to carry the sins of the world to Mt. Moriah.
He is the child of Promise. He is the Promise fulfilled. He is the Promise in the flesh. For in the flesh of this child is the fullness of Deity in bodily form. He is God in the flesh and unlike Adam who named all the creatures of the earth, this Son of God is named from Above. He has joined Himself to the flesh of sinful humanity, though He Himself is without sin. He has joined Himself to His creation, to be near a people of unclean lips, a people who know not their creator but instead revel in the names they create for themselves. This Son of Abraham today is named. He is given the Name that is above all names; Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins. There is no other name given among men by whom we must be saved. Only His!
Today, being named Savior from above, this Jesus of ours brings the covenant of circumcision to an end. He is the end of Circumcision. He is the end of the law. Circumcision you see, was given to Abraham and to his seed. All who would be God’s people, whether of Abraham’s descent or not were to submit to circumcision. Circumcision pointed to the Messiah, the seed of Abraham who would one day come, being born of a virgin, and deliver His people from sin, death, and the power of the devil. Circumcision pointed to Jesus. It marked God’s people by the shedding of blood. It placed them in, with, and under the covenant of God with Abraham. Circumcision made Abraham’s children, God’s children.
But why must Jesus submit to such things? If He is the fulfillment why then be placed under this law? Rest assured beloved, our Jesus does not present Himself to the Old Covenant out of necessity for Himself, but as with all things He does, He does this for you. For me? You say. Yes, for you? For when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, to be born under the law, that He might redeem those born under the Law and we might receive the adoption of Sons. Jesus is circumcised for you today.
Abraham and His descendants were circumcised in fulfillment of what the Law demands. All were circumcised as sinners. Yet, even their obedience in this matter could not save them. Salvation does not come by the Law. “For if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness should have been by the law” (Gal. 3:21). But the Law is powerless when it comes to salvation.
How many these days continue to strive after the law as means to God’s heart? How many people with good intentions, pious resolutions, purposeful deeds, sincere love, set their hearts ablaze as they work at the Law? How many preachers, Roman, Eastern, Protestant and even Lutheran lead their sheep to pastures void of the watery gospel purchased by our infant Lord’s blood? How many Christians believe that being good gets you to heaven? How many of us believe that Love Wins, or Love is what matters the most, or Loving Jesus is what saves you? Beloved in the Lord, the scriptures say, “love is the fulfillment of . . . the LAW!” Can you love enough? Can you be good enough? Can your good intentions, pious New year’s Resolutions, purposeful deeds, sincere love, blaze your way to heaven? NO! You can’t even do the Law perfectly for forty days, let alone the rest of your life, not to mention all your failures this past year! You know this in your heart of hearts, yet your Old Adam continues to battle against this message. Your pride seeks the glory of your own name at the expense of this Child’s.
Beloved, Salvation does not come by your Love, your deeds, or your piety. Salvation is not of the LAW. The Law came through Moses! Moses didn’t make it into the promised Land. He only saw it from a distance. Is that the kind of heaven you want, one that is set before you, one that you can see, but can never attain? What kind of salvation is that?
If you would be good enough than do so perfectly! But if you submit to salvation by the Law, then Christ profits you nothing (Gal. 5:2-3) and you are lost, . . . still under the curse.
Therefore beloved, repent! For there is freedom from the burden and curse of the Law. “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us” (Gal. 3:13). Thus beloved, mark this well on your hearts; We and Abraham were born under the curse of Adam, yet the Child Jesus was not. Abraham came to circumcision as a sinner. Jesus came as the righteous Son of God and Lord of the Law. Abraham’s covenant pointed to Jesus. Jesus has come and brings pleasure eternal. Thus His circumcision preaches a great sermon of comfort to us poor sinners. Here the infant Jesus grabs hold of the law and by His circumcision not only abolishes the old circumcision but the entire ceremonial law! Circumcision, like the Law itself, was given for those conceived and born in sin and therefore, deserving of eternal death. Neither law nor circumcision, however, can make any demands on Christ; He was totally sinless and the Lord of the Law. The fact that He was circumcised like any other sinful child means that in this case, the Law overreached itself and Christ therefore silenced the Law and took away its power. He could have done this out of His power and might, but instead He did it for us out of love and in humility, so that we might take it to heart for our comfort.
Jesus, you see, is the end of circumcision and the end of the Law’s accusation against us. He is the fulfillment of the promises spoken to our forefather Abraham. Here at His circumcision the child who saves people from their sins sheds Holy blood on behalf of us poor sinners. The shadows of the cross loom about as the Child of Mary submits to the pangs of the curse.
Oh, beloved, even here, eight days later the Son of God is working salvation for you and me and the world. Even here, in Bethlehem, under the knife, the old flesh is cut off, that we who believe on His Name may be clothed with His righteousness. Even here God comes so near to fallen creation that His holy blood is spilled for the forgiveness of sins.
Circumcision pointed God’s people to the Christ. Fulfilled, Christ now gives us Himself in Holy Baptism. Christ is your circumcision. For, “in Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the hand writing of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross” (Col. 2:11-14).
Therefore when the devil plagues you, distressing your confidence in Christ and frightening you with the enormity of your sins, say to him; “with my circumcision, my keeping of the Law, my diligent obedience to God, I accomplish nothing. But my Lord Christ’s innocence, that does it! He has taken the Law and torn it to pieces, shredding it from top to bottom by His own death and resurrection. I defy the Law which arrogantly rebukes Him, for the Father Himself has spoken from heaven, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased, whom I love. To none other has He said this, only to Jesus, the Child born of Mary, the child named this day as one who saves His people from their sins”
If you are thrown back upon your piety, your constant resolutions to do better, your 40 days of purpose, and your own righteousness you will be overwhelmed with despair. But if you are cast upon Christ you will never despair. His righteousness bears the testimony of the Father from Heaven. “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” When you lean on this man, Jesus, your footing is sure and your foundation is firm. He is a rock to be trusted.
Beloved in the Lord, the greater Isaac comes to circumcision today. He comes to shed holy blood and fill a chalice with forgiveness. On this eve of another year, know with certainty God’s resolution to forgive you, to save you, to be near you. Isn’t that the kind of God you want? That’s the kind of God He longs to be for you.
Come, you circumcised of the heart! Come you baptized into Christ! Come you who are clothed with Christ! In repentance put off the flesh of this world, and by faith behold the Son of Mary, the Son Abraham, the Son of Adam, the Son of God. He’s here for you, here in the flesh. He’s always here for you! Today, tomorrow and forevermore! That’s His New Year’s resolution for the world! AMEN!
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your heart and mind through faith in Christ Jesus. AMEN!
Pastor Tony Sikora
Hope Lutheran Church
De Witt, MI