Happy New Year! It is now January 1st, and the feast commemorated by the Church today is the celebration of Christ’s circumcision as an eight-day-old infant.
Why would the Church celebrate such an event? How is Christ’s circumcision relevant to us?
1) At Christ’s circumcision, He received the name JESUS.
- “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS:
for he shall save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)
- “And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child,
his name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before he was
conceived in the womb.” (Luke 2:21)
- The name “Jesus” means “Yahweh is salvation” or “the Lord saves”.
- Even though his name was known before his conception,
his name wasn’t officially given to Him until his circumcision.
- Similarly, Baptism is the New Covenant version of circumcision,
and we do not receive our Christian name until our baptism into Christ.
2) At Christ’s circumcision, the Incarnation was clearly manifest.
- If Jesus didn’t have human flesh,
it would have been impossible to circumcise Him.
- If His virgin birth highlighted His divinity,
then His circumcision highlighted His humanity.
3) His circumcision reminds us to address God with masculine pronouns.
- If Jesus had become incarnate as a female, a circumcision would have been impossible.
- God chose to reveal himself in a masculine way. Jesus became incarnate as a male.
- Jesus called God his “Father”. The Holy Spirit is always called “He” in Scripture.
- If it was important to God to reveal himself this way,
then it should be important to us to address Him accordingly.
- This is a good answer to give to modern feminist groups and “progressive” Protestant denominations which try to remove masculine references to God.
- We acknowledge that men and women are both created in the image of God, so we
do not advocate gender inequality. Men and women are valued equally by God.
4) Circumcision reminds us that Christianity is earthy, tangible, & practical.
- The central truths of Christianity are based on
down to earth, historical, physical events such as:
– the virgin birth
– the circumcision of Christ
– the baptism of Christ
– the crucifixion of Christ
– the death of Christ
– the burial of Christ
– the bodily resurrection of Christ
– the physical ascension of Christ
- Most religions primarily consist of basic moral teachings and various beliefs about the afterlife. They may mention some concrete historical facts, but those facts are not central to the religion itself. For example, Islam-minus-Mohammad’s-ascension would still basically be Islam. There would be little impact to the Muslim religion, regardless of whether Muhammad actually ascended into Heaven or not.
- Orthodox Christianity, on the other hand, cannot be separated from its historical claims, because those claims form the fundamental foundations of the Christian Faith. Remove Mohammed’s ascension from Islam, and you have hardly changed anything. But remove Christ’s ascension from Christianity, and Christianity falls apart. You cannot have Orthodox Christianity without the cross, the resurrection, or the ascension. And you cannot have Orthodox Christianity without Christ’s circumcision, either.
5) Circumcision is how Jesus first shed His blood for our salvation.
- We couldn’t be saved if Jesus had not been circumcised . . .
– Scripture says that a child not circumcised would be cut off from God’s people: “And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant.” (Genesis 17:14)
– Scripture says that a person must be circumcised in both heart and flesh, in order to approach God: “Thus saith the Lord GOD; No stranger, uncircumcised in heart, nor uncircumcised in flesh, shall enter into my sanctuary, of any stranger that is among the children of Israel.” (Ezekiel 44:9)
- Jesus was faithful to God’s law in every detail, even from infancy. Via circumcision as an infant, Jesus started His path of complete obedience to God, in every aspect of life.
- Jesus is the most perfect, faithful Jew in history. Yet without being circumcised, He couldn’t have been a Jew.
- As the perfect Jew, Jesus inherits all the promises God made to the Jews in the OT.
- And baptized into Christ, we inherit everything that He inherits.
Christ’s circumcision, Christ’s faithfulness, and Christ’s inheritance become ours.
“For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. . . . And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:27-29)
Almighty God, who madest thy blessed Son to be circumcised, and obedient to the law for man; Grant us the true circumcision of the Spirit; that, our hearts, and all our members, being mortified from all worldly and carnal lusts, we may in all things obey thy blessed will; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
This sermon was preached on Sunday morning, January 1, 2012, at Christ the King Orthodox Church, in Omaha, Illinois, by Joseph M. Gleason.