Eve of the Circumcision of Our Lord
31 December 2011
St. John's, Chicago, IL
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
"Chief of sinners, though I be, Jesus shed His blood for me." when you hear and sing those words, you tend to have in mind a full-grown Jesus in mind. The Savior, whipped, beaten, and dying on His cross. But that was not the first bloodshed.
At the age of one week, Israelite baby boys were to be circumcised, and at that time, received their names. Their little bodies were permanently marked, as they were brought into the covenant with the Lord, and welcomed into the family of faith. A simple scar would bear witness to the fact that they were forgiven and were made members of God's kingdom.
Later, Jesus' body would be permanently marked by nails and spear, as you were brought into the covenant with the Lord, and welcomed into the family of faith. Simple scars in His wrists and feet and side bear witness to the fact that you are forgiven and have been made members of God's kingdom.
But even earlier, even at this tender age of one week, the Baby Jesus was not merely being cute and sleeping on the hay. He already was submitting Himself to the Law for you. He is God the Son. He has no sin. No reason for him to endure any pain or hardship, and yet He did! The perfectly innocent and holy Christ Child submits to the Law, and the knife, shedding His blood for you.
The people of Israel often did not want to be a part of God's covenant. They desired to be a part of it when it was convenient. When it appeared to make them set apart and better than others. But that is not what it was about. The Old Covenant was about the forgiveness of God that brought them into His kingdom, and anticipated the Christ who would come and bring it all to pass.
Daily, your Old Adam does not want to be a part of the Covenant either. Only when it is convenient. Only when you can look about you in a moment of feeling that being Christian is popular or advantageous -- something it is not in most places around the world. But that is not what the New Covenant is about, either. It is not about a life of ease and glory. It is about the forgiveness of God that brought you into His kingdom, and receives that forgiveness, life, and salvation from Christ, who has brought it all to pass.
Jesus, however, entered that Covenant for you. He kept it for you. He keeps it for you. The Lord knew that even Abraham could not keep His covenant, so He kept it for him. He does the same for you! He perfectly kept the Law, and still gave the sacrifices and shed His own innocent blood, that you might be saved, and made righteous, be resurrected, and live with Him forever.
Tonight, when you hear that this Holy Infant shed His blood for you, these are not words to make you feel guilty, and miserable about how you caused an innocent Child to suffer. No. These are freeing, humble, yet joyful words, proclaiming God's unlimited love for you! Jesus, in His perfection, poured out His boundless love, even as a baby. He took your place in every aspect of keeping God's Law, fulfilling it, and paying its price.
As He did all this, He waged war against Satan, so that you may be redeemed and justified -- made righteous! This warfare -- this battle that our Lord Christ wages on your behalf -- is the heart and core of these Twelve Days of Christmas. Benjamin Britten wrote a lesser-known Christmas carol that speaks of this very thing. Jesus is come to be our Savior, shed His blood, and defeat Satan for you!
This little Babe so few days old,
Is come to rifle Satan's fold;
All hell doth at his presence quake,
Though he himself for cold do shake;
For in this weak unarmed wise
The gates of hell he will surprise.
With tears he fights and wins the field,
His naked breast stands for a shield;
His battering shot are babish cries,
His arrows made of weeping eyes,
His martial ensigns cold and need,
And feeble flesh his warrior's steed.
His camp is pitched in a stall,
His bulwark but a broken wall;
The crib his trench, haystalks his stakes,
Of shepherds he his muster makes;
And thus as sure his foe to wound,
The Angels' trumps alarum sound.
My soul with Christ join thou in fight,
Stick to the tents that he hath pight;
Within his crib is surest ward,
This little Babe will be thy guard;
If thou wilt foil thy foes with joy,
Then flit not from this heavenly boy.
As the Lord has brought you to the safe and blessed completion of yet another year, you can look forward to the Year of Our Lord 2012, assured that Jesus' bloodshed has purchased and won you from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil. And He will continue to give you His Spirit who keeps you in the one, true faith, until one day He gathers you to Himself.
Merry Christmass! Amen!