The Feast of the Circumcision of our Lord
December 31, 2000
In the NAME of the FATHER and of the SON and of the HOLY SPIRIT.
Grace, mercy and peace to you from God the Father and from the Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen. "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."
As the sands of time slip through the 2000 hourglass, our thoughts are drawn quite naturally to the subject of "time."
Each year that passes is a reminder that time is running out. Job reminds us, "My days are swifter than a weaver's shuttle."
As quickly as that shuttle, your oldest child is being graduated from college, or your youngest from high school. Where did the years go? Certain dates may stand out for you: the year your child was born; the year your father or mother, or your spouse was taken from you to be with the Lord. You fix certain dates in your mind, trying, in a way, to hold on to time. But as the saying goes, "Time is no time when time is past."
Although time has no substance or material form that we can grab onto; yet time is a created thing. It came to exist when the eternal God created the markers by which we measure time : the sun, moon and stars . He set the rhythm and speed of our planet's rotation and orbit, thus creating seasons. The time of God's creative activity itself established the daily and weekly rhythm of this world, for in six, twenty-four hour days God created all things, and set aside the seventh day for rest.
God did not need rest from His creating, but He sanctified the seventh day for communion with us, the head of His creation. God set aside time within time: time for us to meet and commune with eternity in Himself.
What a great tragedy when we fell for Satan's deception and forfeited that blessed communion with God. When we elevated our own wisdom above God's we fell under Satan's control. We were cast out of the Garden and communion with God, into the Kingdom of Satan's darkness as his slaves, able to serve only Satan's bidding.
But God acted within time, within history, to restored His lost creation to Himself. Before casting Adam and Eve from the Garden, He gave the promise of a sending a Savior, a descendant of Eve, who would crush the head of Satan. As the time drew closer for that Savior to come, God marked Abram as the father of the nation from which this Messiah would be born. As Luther said, "The Church was embodied in Abraham's flesh for a time", since the Savior would come from Abram's seed.
God marked the flesh of Abram in a very important way, with the sacrament of circumcision. Circumcision was an Old Testament sacrament, for it gave membership in the Kingdom of God, according to God's declaration. Circumcision was also a sign of the suffering and bloodshed by which the Messiah would save us, for in circumcision the foreskin of the male organ is cut away, resulting in tremendous pain and a great torrent of blood. Through this sacrament, God marked the Church as that Body which is saved through blood - the blood of her Savior.
Circumcision was also a sign of the new, eternal creation which comes through the blood of Jesus. God specifically ordained that salvation through this sacrament of circumcision be given at a specific time on the eighth day of a child's life. On the eighth day, a child would enter into the eternal Kingdom of God through the shedding of blood. Why the eighth day? Because the eighth day is the day that Christ would rise from the dead, never to die again. The eighth day is therefore an eternal day; it has no end. The eighth day is the first day of eternal life and communion with God through the crucified and resurrected body of Jesus.
In the beginning, God finished the first creation in six days and rested on the seventh, a day of communion with His creation. To establish the new creation, Jesus followed that same pattern. On the sixth day, Good Friday, Jesus declared, "It is finished", meaning that everything necessary to establish the new creation was done by His dying in our place. Jesus rested in the tomb on the seventh day, the Sabbath. He rose in eternal triumph over sin and death on Sunday, the eighth day, a day in which His eternal Kingdom dawned, a Kingdom of perfect communion and peace with God without end.
That is why the Church chose Sunday as the new Sabbath, for on that eighth day, we who are weary and heavy laden, come to Jesus and He gives us rest - the eternal rest that comes by the forgiveness of sins in His blood.
Every Sunday is the eighth day - the first day of eternal life with Jesus, the day of communion and fellowship with Him at His table in the Feast of Victory.
St. Luke was careful in this gospel to record the fact that Jesus was circumcised on the eighth day. Although the sinless Jesus did not require circumcision, His circumcision was part of His willing obedience to the Law of god in our place, and it foreshadowed His bloody sacrifice for sin, and the eternal kingdom He would bring on the eighth day, Easter Sunday.
When Jesus shed His blood on the cross, He ended the Law requiring circumcision, for that Law had now found its fulfillment in His bloody death. Therefore, Jesus instituted Baptism as the new sacrament by which sin and death are circumcised, that is, cut off, and Life in God's eternal Kingdom is given. Colossians 2:
"In Christ, you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature; not with a circumcision done by the hands of men, but with the circumcision done by Christ, having been buried with Him in Baptism and raise with Him ... When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ."
Baptism circumcised your sinful nature - cut if off - and joined you to Christ. That is why many Baptismal fonts, are traditionally made with eight sides. They symbolize the eternal eighth day of rest and life which you entered, in and through Holy Baptism into Jesus' body.
In Christ, you already enjoy the eternal Sabbath rest from sin, which He has established by His suffering and death for you. 2 Corinthians 5: "If anyone is in Christ, He is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come."
On this night, the old year, the old decade, the old century, the old millennium, is slipping away. We approach the new with a certain amount of fear and doubt. But in Christ, time has already been swept away. In your baptism, in this Divine Service, you meet and participate and live in eternity. There is no need to grab on to time; for eternity has grabbed on to you In Jesus Christ! Amen.
In the NAME of the FATHER and of the SON and of the HOLY SPIRIT.