Reader: “When the baby was eight days old,”
Response: “they all came for the circumcision ceremony.”
Scripture: Luke 1:57-66
When it was time for Elizabeth’s baby to be born, she gave birth to a son. And when her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had been very merciful to her, everyone rejoiced with her.
When the baby was eight days old, they all came for the circumcision ceremony. They wanted to name him Zechariah, after his father. But Elizabeth said, “No! His name is John!” “What?” they exclaimed. “There is no one in all your family by that name.” So they used gestures to ask the baby’s father what he wanted to name him. He motioned for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s surprise he wrote, “His name is John.” Instantly Zechariah could speak again, and he began praising God.
Awe fell upon the whole neighborhood, and the news of what had happened spread throughout the Judean hills. Everyone who heard about it reflected on these events and asked, “What will this child turn out to be?” For the hand of the Lord was surely upon him in a special way.
There are a couple of observations I want to make regarding this passage. One has to do with the sequence of events and the other has to do with the significance of circumcision.
First, you are all familiar with this story as Zechariah had trouble believing the message of fatherhood from the angel Gabriel which resulted in his being mute from that moment on until the birth of his son. Apparently at some time during the nine month pregnancy, Zechariah filled in Elizabeth on the details of his angelic encounter via a notepad, for Elizabeth knew the baby’s name was to be John! As it came time to name the baby, with the relatives’ suggestions being rejected by Elizabeth, I can just visualize them making all kinds of gestures trying to communicate with Zechariah to find out his opinion! (This may have been the invention of charades for all we know!) The baby was given the name John by God meaning “grace of God.”
What is the significance of Zechariah saying, “His name is John?” By Elizabeth insisting that God had given the name, she affirmed the specific mission of her son. When Zechariah said, “His name is John,” he gave assent to God’s will and his mouth was opened. His doubt was gone, his speech returned and he prophesied concerning his newborn son.
Second, I’d like to make some observations concerning circumcision on the eighth day.
For some of you this will be a review and for others it may fill in some gaps. I remember when I was in the early days of junior high we were doing a Bible study and the word circumcision came up and one of the girls asked what that word meant. I still remember the look on our shy teacher’s face as he was trying to figure out the best way to answer the question. I recall his one sentence answer was something like, “It’s a special kind of surgery on males.” Whew! . . . next question!
We know that God required Abram to be circumcised as a sign of the covenant he made with his chosen people. The eighth day was a reminder of a new creation, of an eternal state of being and relationship. Such was this covenant. In other words, God was making an everlasting promise (Gen.17:7). Circumcision was not the covenant itself but only a sign. The outward circumcision was also intended to reflect an inner circumcision of the heart, a daily dying to self and trusting in God. In the biggest picture, circumcision was a temporary physical sign applying only to Abraham’s genealogy, thus it did not apply to Gentiles (Rom.4:9-17). Jesus fulfilled this rite when he was circumcised and named on the eighth day (Luke 2:21). He brought a “new covenant” into being as the promise made to Abraham centuries earlier was updated (Lk. 22:20). This new version also included the shedding of blood for the life is in the blood, both physical and spiritual (Lev.17:11).
Under the New Covenant, baptism replaces circumcision. For in baptism we die to self as we are buried in the water and raised to a new life in Christ. The tomb is transformed into the womb. Like circumcision, our hearts die to self and embrace God’s grace (Col.2:11-14). We live out our baptism day by day as we die daily to self and embrace the grace God freely bestows. In dying to self we are made alive in Christ. That is the only way true life happens. Rejoice this day as we approach the celebration of the birth of our great Savior.
Music: “Lo How A Rose E’er Blooming” The Mirandola Ensemble
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZB1eagIUxx4 Atlanta Master Chorale (Original)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X3YHODperFM Alex Stephens
(arrangement one guy singing all the parts)
Prayer:Lord Christ, with whom we lay buried in death together, so that we might rise again by faith in our resurrection, wash away our sins in your Blood, and do not cease to purify us by your merciful forgiveness whom you have long since cleansed in the waters of Baptism. Amen. ―Ancient Prayer, Source Unknown, In the Presence of My Father, p.123