Circumcision and Christmas
We are definitely not going to get this part of the Christmas story acted out in one of our church pageants. Our holiday programs climax the story with Jesus lying peacefully in the manger with the shepherds gathered to worship as we all sing “The cattle are lowing, the Baby awakes, But little Lord Jesus no crying he makes…”
Actually, there are no cattle in Luke’s account or the vivid image of the tiny Jesus hearing their moos and waking up but not crying. Was Jesus so divine that He didn’t cry as a newborn? See how our traditions add things to the text and end up telling a different story? (In this case a baby Jesus who comes across as not actually being fully human.)
In his intro, Dr. Luke told us that he would tell us the facts discovered from researching what actually took place. He won’t allow us to lock the real Jesus up in Currier and Ives nostalgia. Instead, he continues his stress on the Jewishness of Jesus. No kosher boy escaped the distinctive rite on the eighth day. In the Syria Wars beginning in 167 BC Jews became martyrs rather than give up the sign of the covenant God made with Abraham and his “seed.”
“And God said to Abraham, ‘As for you, you will keep my covenant, you and your seed after you down through the generations. This is the covenant which you will keep between me and your sons and between your seed after you. You shall circumcise all the males. You will circumcise them in the flesh of their foreskin and this will be the sign of the covenant between you and me.’” - Genesis 17:9-11
So Luke continues his narrative,
“Now when the days were completed, eight days, he was circumcised and named Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.” - Luke 2:21
Luke won’t let us forget the name Gabriel gave to Mary at the beginning. Zechariah names John at his circumcision, and on the eighth day, Jesus receives the name given to Him by His Father: Jesus—meaning Yahweh saves.
With all Luke’s stress on throne of David and an eternal reign, we expect a story where Jesus grows up, is placed on the throne in Jerusalem, and initiates a Kingdom of Peace that lasts forever. Instead, the cut He experienced in His circumcision is nothing compared to the piercing He will receive in the climax of Luke’s Gospel at Calvary.
If we get squeamish about a cut and a tiny amount of blood in a Jewish circumcision, there’s a good chance we will harden ourselves against the bloody sacrifice of Calvary, and this will not be a good sensitivity. It could be the hardness of an insensitive ear that keeps someone from receiving Jesus’ gift of forgiveness.
LORD, we live in a culture where hardly anyone is uptight about talking about sex and reproductive organs, usually to revel in dirty talk. Help us as biblical believers to not be embarrassed to explain the rite of circumcision as a sign of your promise to Abraham. Thank you that Jesus is this Seed, the Son of Abraham, the Son of David, but most of all the Son of God.
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