31 December 2011

Entering the Eternal Eighth Day by the Name & Circumcision of Jesus

Some days are longer than others; but that can mean very different things. Most of us prefer the long sunny days of summer to the short dark days of winter. But when we talk about a “long day,” we usually mean one that has been difficult and tedious. Such “long days,” when they pile up, become long weeks, long months, and sometimes long hard years.

There is, however, yet another Day, which actually goes on forever: one that is not “long,” but eternal. Not difficult, tedious or painful, but full of light and life and love and peace. A Day that never ends, in which there is no more night, nor darkness anymore; nor hurt, nor fear, nor sadness.

Your days on earth can be long and hard, and often are, because they are burdened by sin and death. Since everything is dying, and there are limited hours of daylight, there is a constant battle to grow and gather food while you can, and to shore up life against the encroaching night.

But now, the Circumcision of our Lord Jesus points you to the Eighth Day: not the beginning of another week, another month, or another year, but the never-ending Day beyond all blood, sweat and tears. The eternal Day of life with God in the New Creation of the Lord’s Resurrection. The dawning of the new heavens and the new earth, in which there is no more night; no more darkness or death. The Day that doesn’t require any alarm clocks or time clocks, or watches or schedules, because work is no more cursed by sin, nor is it a battle to the death, but work and play alike are simply part of living the Life that is yours by the grace of God in Christ Jesus.

Because He, Christ Jesus, has redeemed and sanctified all of creation — and man, in particular — by His becoming flesh of our flesh, by His innocent death and holy bloodshed. And, behold, all things are made brand new in His risen Body. For He has taken your flesh to be His own, and He has taken your sin and death upon Himself, to bear it in His Body to the Cross. So, then, in His Resurrection from the dead, your sin and death are left behind, and He enters heaven in your flesh.

As He has thus entered upon the eternal Eighth Day on your behalf, by His Cross & Resurrection, so have you entered upon that Eighth Day by your Baptism into Him (into His dying and rising).

In his Epistle to the Colossians, St. Paul describes that Holy Baptism as a “circumcision made without hands.” In doing so, he identifies your connection to the Circumcision of Jesus, and to the fulfillment of the Covenant of Circumcision that the Lord God made with Abraham and his Seed.

Circumcision was both the Law and the Gospel for Abraham and his heirs. It was commanded and required, and there were serious consequences for males who were not circumcised: without this cutting of the flesh, they were cut off from the communion of Israel. But circumcision itself was indeed a cutting. It was painful and bloody. For adult men, it was debilitating for several days.

Yet, however odd or embarrassing it might be, circumcision was God’s Covenant with Abraham, and a promise that was given to father Abraham and all his children. Not the cutting in and of itself, but the cutting included in God’s command and combined with God’s Word. Thus, it was a divine promise signed and sealed in the very flesh of the Patriarch and his sons. For the Seed of Abraham would inherit the earth, and in that Seed of Abraham all the nations would be blessed; for in Him, Abraham would become the father of many nations, according to the promise of God.

Now that Covenant and its promise have been fulfilled in Christ Jesus. In submitting to the Law of Circumcision, He has taken the burden of the entire Law of God upon Himself, as well as the curse and consequences of sin and death. So has He also received the inheritance of Abraham, that is, the blessing promised to his Seed forever. For the Son of Mary, Jesus, is the Seed of Abraham. His holy Body is of the flesh and blood of Abraham, and in that Body of His, in His own flesh, He bears — and bears away — all the sin and death of all mankind.

His Circumcision signifies all of these things, and so does it mark His Body for all of these things.

So does the Name that He is given signify and mark His identity and His vocation as the promised Seed — of Abraham, of Judah and David, of the Woman Eve, and of the Blessed Virgin, St. Mary.

To be named “Jesus” is to be called the Son of the Most High. Indeed, it is to be the true God, Yahweh, in the flesh, who saves His people from their sins. For He is Immanuel, God with us. He is the Everlasting Father, the Patriarch of a new Israel, who surpasses even the great father Abraham. He is the true Prince of Peace, surpassing even the great kings David and Solomon.

He is the Joshua, named by God, who truly fulfills what the Lord promised through Moses, but which Moses himself could not do or accomplish.

The Law was a custodian and a tutor, leading the people out of Egypt, by the staff of Moses, through the Red Sea and the wilderness, to and from Mt. Sinai, to the border of the promised land.

But now this Joshua has come, who goes ahead of the people into the waters of the Jordan River; and He brings them, one and all, into Canaan, into the good land, flowing with milk and honey.

That is what this little Lord Jesus has done for you, and for all, by receiving Circumcision in His flesh, and by receiving the Name with which His God and Father has named Him from heaven.

He has gone the full distance — from the waters of His Baptism in the Jordan River (such as we shall hear and celebrate next Sunday), even unto His death upon the Cross. And so also, in His Resurrection from the dead, you are brought into the true and everlasting Promised Land, which God swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, and to all who share the faith of Abraham.

He brings you into that good land through the waters of your Baptism: not as a slave or a captive, but as a beloved son — a son of Abraham by faith, but so also a son of God in Christ Jesus.

Whether you are male or female, young or old, rich or poor, Jewish or Gentile, employed or un-employed, a student or retired, still very young, or already very old — you, dear Christian, are a son of God in Christ, by virtue of your Baptism into Him.

For by your Baptism into Christ Jesus, His Circumcision and all that it signified avails for you, for the removal of sin and death from your flesh and blood, from your heart and mind, body and soul; and for your resurrection to newness of life, as a new creature living in the New Creation.

So, too, your Baptism has also named you with the Name of Jesus. Not that each and all of you are called “Joshua.” (How confusing would that be!?) But that everything the Name of Jesus testifies concerning Him, is now yours. That you are saved by Him, who is your own true God; and that you are His very own dear child. That He is your Father forever, and your true King, whose reign is one of peace and love, of joy and gladness.

With His Name, which He has invoked on you and given to you, He binds Himself to you and blesses you. He has done this for you in your Holy Baptism, and that is permanent. But so does He do it, daily, and throughout your life on earth (unto the life everlasting), by the speaking of His Word, by the preaching of His Gospel, by His absolving of your sins, and by the giving of Himself to you, the Word-made-Flesh, for you to eat and drink.

As a father first begets a child, and a mother once gives birth, but then both parents continue to “name” their children with loving care for them, by teaching them, by conversations with them, by forgiving them, by praying and confessing the Word of God with them (and for them). Each time a father calls his child by name, by the name that he has given, he calls that child his own.

So does the Lord continue to name you, by the speaking of His Word; and with that Word He blesses you with the gift of His Spirit, who is life and health, and peace and strength, and love.

Naming you with His Name, by His Word, He guards and keeps you in body and soul; in this life, yes, but also for the life everlasting — for the eternal Eighth Day of life with Himself in heaven. For with His Name, He claims you as His own, and He identifies you with Himself, as His own beloved child and heir. He is gracious toward you, compassionate and patient, because He loves you. He delights in you. He smiles upon you, and His countenance is bright with joy over you.

As you are named with the Name of Christ Jesus, anointed by His Spirit as a Christian, the Lord your God, your dear Father in heaven, is pleased with you and proud of you. He is not angry or unhappy with you; far from it. He reigns over you with grace and mercy and never-ending love.

That is your peace, through Jesus, your Savior. It is solid, sure and certain in His Body, in His flesh and blood, in His already-accomplished and completed-once-for-all Cross and Resurrection.

And this is already yours, here and now; as Christ is yours, even now, in your Baptism (which has left its indelible mark on you), and in this preaching of the Gospel, and in this Holy Communion.

By this grace of God in the Gospel, by this flesh and blood of Jesus, you already live and abide with Him in the eternal Eighth Day. It is not a long hard day, but a brilliant and beautiful Day of light and life and love.

For now, it is by faith, and not by sight. There are still days and nights, some longer than others. But the Eighth Day has already dawned for you, and for all, in the Incarnation of the Son of God, and in His bodily Resurrection from the dead. So shall you also rise, and live forever in body and soul, immortal, imperishable, and glorious, like Jesus.

Then shall there be no more days and nights, no more weeks and months and years, but only one great and glorious Day, and only the Light of Christ Jesus, your Savior, shining upon you forever.

In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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