Pure Good News

Now the question on everyone’s minds this morning must be something along the lines of, “Why focus on this? Why in the world would the ancient Church calendar have a day set aside to recall the Circumcision of our Lord?” I mean, other observances make sense, right? We just celebrated His birth. We can celebrate the visitation of the Magi. Next Sunday, we will focus on His baptism. Throughout the coming months we take time to celebrate His miracles, His transfiguration, His triumphant entry into Jerusalem (humble and riding on a donkey), His betrayal and death, and then the big one on Easter morning, His resurrection from the dead. Even after all of this, we will hear about His appearance in the upper room, His ascension to the right hand of the Father, and His promise to come again. All those make sense. All those events in Jesus’ life seem worthy of a day set aside for us to really dive into what it means for us here today and what these events have to say about our hope, our confidence, and assurance. But just how does His circumcision at eight days old fit into this story?

Well, a lot actually. To begin with, let us recall exactly what circumcision was. Not the medical procedure of circumcision, we all know what it entails, but why did the people of God do this in the first place? In the most basic of ways, it was done because God commanded it. Way back in Genesis, God established a covenant between Himself and Abraham. He promised Abraham would become many nations, that kings would come from his line. He is blessed by God in order to be a blessing to all the families on earth. The sign of this Covenant, the part Abraham was called to do, was to be circumcised, and not just Abraham but every male of his household and every child born into this lineage and covenant at eight days old was to be circumcised. Circumcision was the sign that you were part of the household of God. In this way, it was both law and promise. It was the shedding of blood and an act of obedience on the part of the people. It was the blessing of God’s provision and grace.

So, what does it mean for Jesus to be circumcised? Does it simply mean He was a faithful child of Abraham, and Mary and Joseph were doing what all good Jews have done since the beginning? Well, possibly, but it is pointed out to us, it is given its own focus in the Church, because it highlights the totality of our Lord’s perfect life of love and obedience to the Father. He is the true and faithful son of God, faithful to every point of the Law. As scripture teaches us, He was born under the Law to fulfill the Law for us, to do what we could never do, and in many ways, this begins here at His circumcision. He receives the mark of the Covenant, His innocent blood is shed, and then He will go on to fulfill that covenant for all of us. He will complete the task without remainder, with nothing lingering you must fulfill, that you need to continue on your own. Through faith in Christ alone, you are declared righteous.

This is what Saint Paul speaks about when he says, “The Law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.” Christ’s submission to the will of the Father is your salvation. It is the source of your confidence and assurance of eternal life. For all the other things we mentioned earlier, His baptism, His transfiguration, His triumphal entry, His betrayal in the garden, and His crucifixion at Calvary, all of these are the continuation of His faithful work. His willing obedience delivers you from the need for the guardian which is the Law. You have a new protector, new champion, new one who will deliver you to eternal paradise and it is Christ your Lord.

So, the Circumcision of our Lord highlights the totality of His work, the complete and perfect sacrifice made for you, for your sin. The Jesus’ circumcision does not allow us to take-up the Law again in little bits and pieces, which is what we love to do. The great history of God’s people is the history of always wanting to take-up some matter of law and make it binding for the faithful. You must do just this one thing. You must pray this way. You must give this much. You must devote this time. You must accomplish this task. You must experience this feeling. It usually is not a big thing. It is usually something small and attainable, or at least it seems so when you begin. But that one thing, the one item on your to-do list for salvation becomes everything. It becomes the whole of your salvation, and so it becomes the source of your terror and doubt. Let us say your thing to do is to tithe. Simple enough right? Jesus carries everything else and all you need to do is give a tithe of all you have. Well then, the discussion begins. Do you tithe on the gross or the actual? Does it matter if you tithe begrudgingly, or do you need to do it with a joyful heart? And what about the times you did not tithe? Do you need to make-up for those days? If your salvation hangs in the balance of your tithing, will you ever have real assurance you are saved, that eternal life is already yours?

No, there is no confidence in your work, in your effort, in your doing of the Law, no matter how small and simple you make it, which is why the perfect work of Christ is everything. Your assurance of eternal life is found in being connected to Christ. So, Paul says, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” To be baptized is to put on Christ. It is to be the offspring of Abraham. It is to become an heir of the promises of God. In the water of Holy Baptism, all the faithfulness of Christ is given to you, washed over you, without qualification or limitation. It is the pure “good news” of salvation.

Elsewhere, Paul will speak about the connection between circumcision and your baptism. In fact, he will call baptism a circumcision made without hands. In Colossians 2:13-14, he says, “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This He set aside, nailing it to the cross.” This is not your work. It is not about how well you performed or how memorable the moment was. This is all the work of your God, a true gift, free and eternal which cancels your debt and opens wide the gates of eternal life.

Therefore, as Mary and Joseph faithfully brought our Lord to be circumcised, so this morning the parents of little Kaeden brought him to the waters of Baptism. Right here, in an act we have witnessed hundreds of times before, a powerful gift was bestowed. There was death and new life, a drowning and a resurrection all in a simple moment of water and the Word. What we witnessed was pure good news, no law, no requirement placed upon him. The was no to-do list given. Kaeden put on Christ, and he received all Jesus has done. From His circumcision to His death, and His glorious resurrection on Easter morning, all of it is now Kaeden’s, as it is yours.

You are under the guardianship of Christ. You are forgiven all your sins. You have died and been born anew in the gifts of Christ. As a result, you are the offspring of Abraham and heirs of eternal life. Our Lord’s work is total. It is complete. There is no remainder left over. It is pure good news.