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Ask the Pastor

† Theological musings and answers to selected questions by a confessional Lutheran pastor.






31 December 2005

On the Eighth Day of Christmas

Our Savior Got His Name

Is everyone having a good Christmas? I certainly hope so. While the celebration begins on 25 December, Christmas continues daily as the Father continues to send His Son to us. Meanwhile, according to the Church calendar, the Feast is only two-thirds of the way done on New Year’s Day.

Many people, Christian or not, use the western calendar’s New Year’s Day on 1 January as a time of taking stock, evaluating decisions, and making resolutions. It’s also the Church feast day commemorating the Circumcision and Name of Jesus. Some churches celebrate one or the other of these events, some both, and some neither. The appointed Gospel is the briefest in the Christian calendar: “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. (Luke 2:21)”

Circumcision of our LordThis date was chosen because it’s the Eighth Day of Christmas. Old Testament Law (see Genesis 17:12; Leviticus 12:3) required the circumcision of all males in order to bring them into the covenant. Normally, this was done on the eighth day. Once the Christian Church established a date for Christmas, the commemoration of His circumcision was set for one week later.

This day reminds us that Christ fulfilled all the Law, even that specific only to Israel. He who was “born under the Law” now was under the Law Moses brought down Mount Sinai. As far as we know, this was the first time He felt pain on our behalf, the first blood He shed.

The Name of Jesus is also important. As the angel told Joseph, “You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save his people from their sins. (Matthew 1:21)” Similarly, Gabriel told Mary, “You will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. (Luke 1:31)” The name Jesus (the Greek form of Joshua) means, “the Lord (Yahweh) saves” or “He saves.”

While planning for a new year and making your resolutions, remember the One who resolved to set you free from your sins and give thanks that He came to fulfill the Law for us who couldn’t and who has, indeed, saved us. As the apostle wrote, “At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:10-11)”

As for commemorating His circumcision on New Year’s Day, what better time is there to give thanks that in His keeping of this part of the Law, Christ also prepared to receive us into His New Testament?

“In him 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. (Colossians 2:11-12).”

“We are the real circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh. (Philippians 3:3)”

The icon of the Circumcision of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is by Father John Matusiak. Saint Basil the Great is depicted above the Circumcision. In the Orthodox Church, both are commemorated on January 1. This icon is reproduced with permission. Please click on it to view a larger size.

Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version™, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles.

Send email to Ask the Pastor.

Walter Snyder is the pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Emma, Missouri and coauthor of the book What Do Lutherans Believe.

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