Sermon for the Eve of the Circumcision and Name of Jesus, AD 2020

Luke 2:21; Psalm 8:1-9

There is no need to dwell on such things that we hear every day, but no doubt practically everyone here had some kind of disappointment or loss this year, if not just stress from the constant bad news that people love to report in the media and social media. Along with this, there is an odd trend of people treating the year 2020 itself as if it were a person who brought about all these problems. As if something inherent in the year brought about the various troubles, and if we just get to 2021, we will be ok. It is true enough that each day has troubles of its own, but take this too far and we begin to lose focus on the actual problem and Who the solution is. The world groans as in birth pains because it anticipates the coming of Jesus. It is not the year that causes our problems, but sin, often our own sin. It is not the passing of time that saves us from the evil day, but Jesus Christ. Therefore, we should rest our comfort for today and hope for the future new year on Christ, the one who rules all of creation.

David, in Psalm 8, ponders God’s relation to creation:

  O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
       You have set your glory above the heavens.
        Out of the mouth of babies and infants,
       you have established strength because of your foes,
to still the enemy and the avenger.
    When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
    what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?
    Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.
    You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under his feet,
    all sheep and oxen,
and also the beasts of the field,
    the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,
whatever passes along the paths of the seas.
    O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!


The one who trusts in God then praises God upon seeing creation. It is proper for us to know that God created you and me and all creatures, and that He did so in six days. Even more, that the proper response to this is praise to God. Creation should always evoke our praise. Yet many times creation can also make us feel small and insignificant. David mentions this too.  He says, “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?

At Creation, Adam was given dominion over the earth and the creatures of the earth, but when Adam and Eve sinned they lost much of that dominion and now we sons of Adam only rule the earth imperfectly. Thus we feel dwarfed by God’s handiwork – his hanging of the planets in space at just the right angles to support life here; the delicate work of his fingers in assembling our cells and organs; even the animals of the earth that he would give us such a diversity to enjoy.

Take a quiet moment to think of the passing of time and how utterly helpless you are to stop it. Even lives of power and wealth must consider their puny status compared to all creation, for all lives speedily come to a close. Dust we are and to dust we shall return.

Still for some reason God cares for man. Even in man’s sin, God acts compassionately towards him instead of visiting him with judgment. Space and the universe seem so cold and distant, yet God is close to us. This is the true and Christian way to view creation, in awe and thanks for what God has done, acknowledging how little we know and deserve.

Therefore, let us see creation in a Christian way, acknowledging the gifts that God has given us, praising Him for sustaining us day to day. Do not curse the day, the year 2020, for this is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it. Christians suffer. Christians have bad years. Christians do not despair, do not lose hope. Our hope is not in the year, but a more solid foundation. Hear the words of Isaiah 58:
 
    Yet they seek me daily
and delight to know my ways, 
       as if they were a nation that did righteousness 
and did not forsake the judgment of their God; 
       they ask of me righteous judgments; 
they delight to draw near to God.
    ‘Why have we fasted, and you see it not?
Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?’ 
       Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure, 
and oppress all your workers.
    Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight
and to hit with a wicked fist. 
       Fasting like yours this day 
will not make your voice to be heard on high.
    Is such the fast that I choose,
a day for a person to humble himself? 
       Is it to bow down his head like a reed, 
and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? 
       Will you call this a fast, 
and a day acceptable to the Lord?
    “Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness, 
to undo the straps of the yoke, 
       to let the oppressed go free, 
and to break every yoke?
    Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house; 
       when you see the naked, to cover him, 
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
    Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up speedily; 
       your righteousness shall go before you; 
the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
    Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’ 
       If you take away the yoke from your midst, 
the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, 
     if you pour yourself out for the hungry
and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, 
       then shall your light rise in the darkness 
and your gloom be as the noonday.
    And the Lord will guide you continually
and satisfy your desire in scorched places 
and make your bones strong; 
       and you shall be like a watered garden, 
like a spring of water, 
whose waters do not fail.
(Isaiah 58:2-11)

     The Christian’s life is rightly one of repentance. We cry out to God for a bad year, and what He replies is that we must still repent. Reach out to your neighbor. Help those who are in distress. Do not sit in fear waiting for a better time, the time to repent, the time to do the works that God has prepared for us is now. Isaiah spoke in a time not different than our own, he says in chapter 59:

   Justice is turned back,
and righteousness stands far away; 
       for truth has stumbled in the public squares, 
and uprightness cannot enter.
    Truth is lacking,
and he who departs from evil makes himself a prey. 
       The Lord saw it, and it displeased him 
that there was no justice. 
    He saw that there was no man,
and wondered that there was no one to intercede; 
       then his own arm brought him salvation, 
and his righteousness upheld him.
    He put on righteousness as a breastplate,
and a helmet of salvation on his head; 
       he put on garments of vengeance for clothing, 
and wrapped himself in zeal as a cloak.
    According to their deeds, so will he repay,
wrath to his adversaries, repayment to his enemies; 
to the coastlands he will render repayment.
    So they shall fear the name of the Lord from the west,
and his glory from the rising of the sun; 
       for he will come like a rushing stream, 
which the wind of the Lord drives.
    “And a Redeemer will come to Zion,
to those in Jacob who turn from transgression,” declares the Lord.
(Isaiah 59:14-20)
 
     The Lord is greatly displeased when there is no justice, no truth in the public, when truth is persecuted and uprightness is not allowed. We live in a year when speaking against the murder of children can get you expelled from school. We live in a year when saying men and women are created differently by God will get you blackballed from employment. We live in a year when those who do not bow to the pagan gods of the self and self-determined morality will be thrown into the fiery furnace of poverty and social exclusion. We also live in a year, 2020, AD, anno domini, the Year of Our Lord! For the Lord sees the injustice, and knowing none can intercede, He brought His Own Arm to deliver us, to bring salvation and righteousness!
 
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.” The name Jesus means “the LORD saves.” Even before Adam’s fall, God already had a plan to send his son to take on human flesh and save all the sons of Adam. David knew this through the inspiration God gave him through the Holy Spirit when he wrote, “Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger. When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.” God became man – we heard this a few days ago on Christmas. Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, the Son of God, was made lower than the angels. Jesus took the form of a servant, in life he held back his divine power in his mission to serve us and save us.

Even more, Christ was an infant - born and grew as a man so He could suffer for man and then bring all things into his dominion as the true son of Adam. Jesus begins here, at the circumcision, where he is subject to the demands of the law that all Israelite boys be circumcised on the eighth day. Out of the mouths of babies and infants God established strength because of his foes for centuries. Each new generation of circumcised boy cried out that God had set apart a people from whom the Christ would come. Jesus as an infant cries out in God-ordained praise as He begins His subjection to the law so that all might be saved through Him.

Jesus is the son of man whom God visited. He was for a little while not attended by angels and was forsaken. Instead of calling down legions of angels to protect him he submitted to his Father’s plan and let the Jews send him to the Romans to be crucified. His suffering which began at eight days old was completed when he hung on the cross, forsaken by God, and took our sins upon himself and died.

Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands.” Our Lord suffered and died, but death was not the end. In dying, he defeated death for all time. He rose from the dead and was crowned with honor and glory, praise and majesty, and rising he entered into his heavenly glory. Jesus, the God-man, the man who was an infant circumcised on the eighth day, is now exalted and reigns over all creation. He has the dominion meant for the son of Adam. The story which circumcision started doesn’t end at the crucifixion, but goes to the ascension, for his name is exalted above all other names in heaven and on earth. Jesus Christ is the supreme ruler of all, everything is subject to him, the earth and heavens are his footstool, and still He is your savior. He is mindful of you. Your salvation is sure.

Babies and nursing infants have God-ordained praise from their lips that drown out all God’s enemies. Infants and adults receive this faith which creates praise in baptism as a gift. Christ’s obedience from the circumcision to the cross has been given to you in your baptism. The name of the one who has dominion over all things, Jesus Christ, has been put on you and you are His.

Even when time passes and life seems short and the year is awful, Christ is reigning. Now Christ has redeemed your time, 2020, 2021, and beyond, and you will rise with Him on the last day into the age to come. Right now, the one who suffered as you suffer reigns and cares for you. He has put his name on his baptized children and will be with them always. Amen.

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