Bethlehem Lutheran Church & Bethel Lutheran Church, Lebanon & Sweet Home, OR
Circumcision and Name of Jesus + December 31, 2017
Text: Numbers 6:24-27; Luke 2:21
When you say “Happy New Year,” you may be surprised to know what that wish means. Many people think nothing of the greeting, “Happy New Year.” It’s just another year that will bring gladness and sadness in appropriate measures; maybe more of one than the other. Other people think about earthly happiness, hoping this year will be better than the last. Some will eat their share of black-eyed peas and use other good-luck charms to start the year off right.
What about you? When you wish another Christian “Happy New Year,” for what are you wishing for them or for you? Will your desires be fulfilled? In Christ Jesus, the answer is “Yes.” The year of our Lord 2018 will bring all sorts of good things for you, whether in the body or in the spirit, whether temporal or spiritual blessings. What guarantee have you?
Consider the blessing in the Old Testament reading, the familiar blessing that concludes every Divine Service. Consider also the short account of Jesus Christ’s circumcising and naming, eight days after His birth according to the flesh.
The Lord bless you and keep you. At the end of eight days. Eight days of nursing at Mary’s breast. Eight days of life in this poor vale of tears. Eight days subject to earthly government. The blessed Son of the Most High is equal to His brethren. The same sun that shines on you now also shone on the Child Jesus. The same Almighty God fills one year to another with His good. He blessed the earth at the beginning of time. He opened His gentle Hand in the fullness of time and gave food to all flesh. He sows His blessing over city and country even in these last days. Even if you are as poor as Jesus was in His earthly life, do not worry about your earthly life. You are God’s child. You live under God’s blessing: the Lord bless you! He blesses you coming in and going out of this house of prayer. He blesses your work and your rest. He blesses what you have, even when you have little.
Our Lord knows what it means to live in an evil world. Herod of Judea spread His terrors, attempting to slaughter Jesus. All male children two years of age and under were not spared the blade. Even now the days are evil. Diseases, fires, floods, earthquakes, the wickedness of man, and the powers of darkness threaten you in the New Year. But, do not be afraid, dear Christian friends. God the Father protected His Child Jesus. He also will protect you. He covers you with His wings, your confidence will be under His wings. The Lord keep you! He is your shade and your shield. He encamps His angel hosts all around you. He never slumbers nor sleeps. As you are blessed in the body, so will you also be in the spirit.
The Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you! …when He was circumcised…. The shepherds who witnessed the glory of the Lord on the night when Christ was born were terrified at the sight of the holiness of God Almighty. They were the sinful seed of Abraham. But the Seed of Abraham in a manger is holy. Nevertheless, Jesus takes up the mark that the sinful children of Abraham wore. He was like His brethren, born under the Law, even under the curse of the Law, until God even hid His fatherly countenance from Him on that dark Good Friday.
We remain sinners entering a new year. What if this is the year that Christ returns in triumph to judge the living and the dead? Will the glory of the Lord shine upon us in terror? Must we expect to hear the terrible words, “Depart from Me, you cursed ones?” No. Instead, we hear the Lord make His face shine upon you. The Lord Christ does not shine from Sinai, but from the little crib of Bethlehem and from the throne of majesty as the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ: a friendly, lovely face.
He was called Jesus. The little child circumcised on the eighth day, Who bore the curse of the Law, tasted the wrath of His Father. Jesus atoned for the punishment of sins. He gave His life in death for you. Jesus is your Savior. He bore a curse for you, yes, especially for you; bore indignation and wrath so that you would partake of the blessing: the Lord be gracious to you. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ must console you in the New Year in all sinful distress, coming tribulation, in the midst of death, and in the last judgment.
The Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace! …the name given by the angel…. If only Satan would have prevented our Lord’s circumcision and naming. Then this poor world would remain unblessed even though Jesus would purchase salvation. Not even Satan could make mute the angel of that holy night or even the Herald at the empty tomb. However, he attempts to silence the pure preaching of the Gospel. God gracious countenance shines over sinners, but Satan sends dark clouds in abundance through false teaching, lies, slander, doubt, and temptations of all kinds. Satan will continue to send dark clouds in the New Year, but his work will not succeed. The Name above all names will fulfill His blessing among us: the Lord life us His countenance upon you! High above the dark storm clouds the Spirit of the Lord lifts up His countenance. He lets His breath blow in Word and Sacraments. His light shines upon us. As for Satan? “One little word can fell him.”
…before He was conceived in the womb. God has determined and manifested the Name of the Savior. His decree was certain from all eternity. The decree has its expression in the Name of Jesus. He also calls you by your name. He has known you from all eternity. He knows what you need: peace. Thus the blessing of Numbers chapter six ends: and give you peace. This peace is higher than all reason. It is the peace that the world cannot give. God’s peace is peace in the heart, in the conscience, and especially God’s peace in the struggle with Satan, the world, and your flesh. It is also the peace into which you will die. After the last struggle and victory, there is eternal peace of the perfect blessed ones in the Lord.
The blessing of the Lord remains upon you as a new calendar year is here. In the shedding of the blood of Jesus, there is cleansing of all sin. In the shedding of the blood of Jesus, there is sure and certain hope for joy in eternity. Happy New Year in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Name of wondrous love! Amen.
 “A Mighty Fortress” (LSB 656:3)