Jesus Blesses Us with His Name and Saves Us with His Blood
Our newborn God keeps the Law for us and brings Abraham’s promises to their fulfillment when He is circumcised. It is there that the Name above all names is “bestowed on Him” (Phil. 2:9), “the Name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb”: Jesus, “the Lord saves” (Luke 2:21, Holy Gospel). He sheds the first drops of His precious blood in accordance with this Name and in anticipation of His cross, “for He will save His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). The law’s captivity gives way to the freedom of faith in Christ Jesus, who cuts a new covenant in His blood to be received by faith, whether male or female, Jew or Greek (Gal. 3:23–28, Second Lesson). His Name is given to us in Holy Baptism, and we are made sons of God and “heirs according to promise,” true offspring of Abraham by faith (Gal. 3:29). Eight days after the celebration of our Lord’s birth, a new “Year of our Lord” is begun in Jesus’ holy Name and with His benediction. Jesus is the Lord, and by this Name we are blessed (Num. 6:22–27, First Lesson).
On the cover are objects that connect closely to today’s celebration of the circumcision and naming of Jesus. A knife, embedded with jewels and engraved with the sign of the cross is a reminder of the act of circumcision that took place eight days after the birth of Jesus. This knife is not an ordinary knife, but ceremonial in nature, indicating that this rite isn’t just some ordinary action taking place. For a male Israelite, this act would not only place him under the obligations of the Law, but would also entitle him to the covenant promise of God to send a Savior. So the same is true of Christ. This act is not merely symbolic. Through his circumcision he places himself under the Law of God, and declares, through the first shedding of his blood, that he is the promised Savior from sin.
Also adorning the cover is a Hebrew word (read right-to-left): “Yeshua.” It is the Old Testament name “Joshua,” which means “he saves.” This name was common in Israel at the time of Jesus’ birth. It would not have turned any heads at the Temple that morning. However, as the angel Gabriel reminded Joseph, this small child “would save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). What an appropriate name given to a baby who already, through his perfect obedience to the Law (of being circumcised on the eighth day), would indeed save us all from our sins!
Already on the eighth day of Jesus’ life, his destiny of atonement is revealed in his name and in his circumcision. At that moment, his blood is first shed and Jesus receives the name given to him by the angel: “You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). In the circumcision of Jesus, all people are circumcised once and for all, because he represents all humanity. In the Old Testament, for the believers who looked to God’s promise to be fulfilled in the Messiah, the benefits of circumcision included the forgiveness of sins, justification, and incorporation into the people of God. In the New Testament, St. Paul speaks of its counterpart, Holy Baptism, as a “circumcision made without hands” and as “the circumcision of Christ” (Colossians 2:11).