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BETHLEHEM LUTHERAN CHURCH: | Mason City, Iowa USA | Pastor Mark Lavrenz


Sunday Sermon - Pastor Lavrenz Stained Glass - Communion

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our heavenly Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, AMEN.

The text for our meditation today is the Gospel Lesson for this Sunday, Luke 2:21. There we read these words: And when eight days were completed for the circumcision of the Child, His name was called JESUS, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb.

We begin in the Name of Jesus, AMEN

You know what. Of all the festivals and holy days of the church year, this one today might sound the strangest: "The Circumcision of Our Lord."

This normally isn’t the subject of polite conversation, and to speak of circumcision and Jesus may seem a little bit degrading to your sensibilities. However, perhaps your sensibilities need a little repentance: we celebrate this eighth day of Christmas for an important reason: behold, your infant Savior is already at work saving you.

It was God’s Law from Genesis 17 for the rest of the Old Testament: on the eighth day of a baby boy’s life, his parents were to have him circumcised. If he was circumcised, he was part of the nation of Israel. If he wasn’t circumcised, he was to be cut off from the people because the baby boy had broken the covenant (Gen. 17:14; an interesting verse for those who believe in the innocence of children and the age of accountability).

This was the sign that God gave for the men of Israel, and He provided no alternative: a full-grown man who desired to be counted among the Israelites also had to undergo circumcision before he was numbered among them (an interesting requirement for those who would water down adult confirmation classes on the pretext that one should place no obstacles before a catechumen liking making them memorize or some such).

Think about it. If you were to choose a sign to mark God’s people, I an betting it would not be that.

But the fact is that this is the sign that God chose: if a man was going to be part of the people of God, he had to obey God’s commands. Obedience started when he was eight days old: when he was circumcised, he was officially under the Law. If he wasn’t circumcised and continued that way, he obviously didn’t want to be part of God’s covenant or His people.

Eight days after Jesus was born, Jesus was circumcised according to that law.

Stained Glass Baptism Window

Here is the key question: why? Why would Jesus be circumcised? Did He need to become part of God’s people? Hardly! He was already God’s Son. So why did Jesus submit to circumcision? Was it that He had no choice as an infant? Again, no: although a baby according to His human nature, He was all-powerful according to His divine nature. So why was Jesus circumcised?

This is the answer: to declare Himself under the Law. Thus Galatians 4:4-5: "But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons."

On the 8th day of His life—still the tiniest of babies, Jesus declared that He had come to keep the Law. He had come to keep the Law for all those sinners who couldn’t keep the Law.

Remember how the Law works. To Old Testament Israel, God gave His holy Law. The Law says, "In order to be God’s people, keep all of these commandments perfectly. Be circumcised. Honor your father and mother. Love your neighbor as yourself. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind. Keep these laws, and you’re holy. Break them, and you’re not." That’s how the Law works.

And as you are well aware, the Law is impossible for sinners to keep. If your only hope of salvation was to keep God’s Law perfectly, all your life from infancy to death, you’d have no hope of heaven. You’d have only the grim certainty of God’s judgment for your sin.

That’s why Jesus was born in flesh, just like you. He put Himself under the Law in order to keep it for you. He was born to live a perfect holy life, keeping every one of God’s commandments, and He started by being circumcised. and then He went to the cross to suffer and to die, bearing God’s judgment for the sins of the world.

You and I are used to celebrating Jesus’ birth at Christmas, His death on Good Friday and His resurrection at Easter. Along the way, we also give thanks for His baptism, transfiguration and more. However, the Circumcision of our Lord is an important day to remember, because there you see Him from the earliest of ages, keeping the Law for you, to save you.

Keeping that in mind, remember two more things about His circumcision. First, it is here that He is given the name Jesus. The name that means "Yahweh saves." As Jesus submitted to circumcision, He was at work to save you. Secondly, this work of His for your salvation—at the age of 8 days— foreshadowed the ultimate act of salvation on the cross. Already at day 8, the Infant shed His blood for you.

What does this mean for you, this Circumcision of our Lord? Each day provides you with all sorts of opportunities to keep God’s Law by loving God and your neighbor. You can deal kindly and politely with your spouse. You can patiently instruct and care for your children. You can be a model of patience and understanding to the driver who just cut you off in traffic. You can put the best construction on the odd behaviors of others and help squelch gossip when it arises.

Stained Glass Confirmation Window

If you honestly examine yourself according to God’s holy Law, you’ll be quick to confess that you sin each day—often and much. Therefore, you can’t save yourself by keeping the Law.

That is why you should remember Jesus’ eighth day, that even then, the Baby Jesus was at work to save you. He was shedding His blood to keep the Law. And from there, He would grow up to keep all of God’s commands perfectly, for the express purpose of giving you the credit for His perfect obedience. Furthermore, He went to the cross and died for your sin and disobedience, so that you might be forgiven. Remember the circumcision of the Lord, and wonder that Jesus Christ was working for your salvation even there.

Remember this, too: circumcision was an objective mark. There was no maybe, maybe not. A circumcised male was part of God’s people, not maybe part of God’s people. He could be faithless and forsake the Lord and be lost, but that didn’t mean God had swaffled.

Today, however, God no longer commands circumcision; instead, He gives Holy Baptism for male and female both. We read in Colossians. 2:11-12, 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.

In baptism, forgiveness is not a maybe/maybe not either. In other words, you have no need to wonder, "Did Jesus really keep the Law for me? Did He give forgiveness to me, too?"

When the world asks, "What proof do you have of God’s love and grace and forgive-ness for you?" You can boldly declare back, "I am baptized into Christ Jesus. I am a child of God. I have God’s Word that I am forgiven."

That is why it is good to remember what Jesus’ circumcision teaches: it proclaims the wonder that. Jesus was born to live for you, keep the Law for you, die for you and to rise from the dead for you.

Christ Is Risen.

Luther Rose


Christ Is Risen
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