January 1

January 1, 8th Day of Christmas     The Holy Name of Jesus

Scripture: Luke 2:21

“Eight days later, when the baby was circumcised, he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel even before he was conceived.”

Some thoughts:

     Mary and Joseph were given great responsibility in the raising of God’s Son. Talk about pressure! How do you raise a perfect child? Nevertheless, we see at every significant point, they were up to the task though at times a little uncertain. It was Jewish law that on the eighth day after the birth of a boy child, he was to be circumcised (bris, the circumcision ceremony)) and given his formal name (Gen 17:12, Lev 12:3). Often the name was chosen to reflect the character, the God-given uniqueness of that infant, and even perhaps reflective of the little one’s path in life. It is interesting that Mary was told she would become pregnant and bare the Son of God, but it was in Joseph’s dream that the angel told him the child’s name would be Jesus, meaning “God saves his people.” The Hebrew version is “Joshua.” In many cultures throughout history people chose names for their babies which carried a specific meaning or quality. But Mary and Joseph did not pick out the name of their firstborn son, God did. So, you can see in Jewish culture, the naming carried great weight as the meaning of the name was a reminder of the character and mission of the child. You can begin to see the significance of Jesus’ name. Could there be a better name for our Savior? 

     In addition, the circumcision of the male was an outward sign reminding one and all that this child is part of the covenant God made with Abraham.  As we mentioned, baby boys were circumcised and given their name on the eighth day after their birth. Why so specific about this particular day? It’s in accordance with the ancient Jewish law and as it turns out, there is a good medical reason as well. Normally, prothrombin, the material that causes blood to clot reaches 100%, though not in the very first days after birth. On the eighth day it hits 110%, the only time it ever gets that high, and then settles back to the normal level. So, circumcision on the eighth day allows the blood its maximum clotting potential. God thought of everything!  Then after his circumcision (it’s eight days since Christmas Day), Mary and Joseph went back to the Temple thirty-two days later for the rite of purification (February 2nd is forty days from the birth). You’ll note from the scriptural evidence that Mary and Joseph were practicing Jews keeping the laws―the naming Jesus on the eighth day, observing the purification ceremony on the fortieth day, regular attendance at synagogue, and Jesus’ own bar mitzvah at age twelve. Jesus was clearly an observant Jew his entire life―reading as usual from the scroll in his hometown synagogue (Lk 4:16), his observances of Feast of Tabernacles (John 7:2), Hanukkah (John 10:22), Pentecost (Lk 24:49), and of course, Passover. Not only did he keep the Law, but he also fulfilled the Law and fulfilled his name.

     The meaning of his name is interesting when looking back at the Old Testament in relation to the Law. God made a covenant with Abraham and the sign of that covenant was circumcision. (Gen 17:9-14) God gave Moses the Law. But by following the Law, no one could ever enter heaven because no one could keep it perfectly, hence symbolically, Moses was not able to lead the children of Israel into the Promised Land (a type of heaven) through observing the Law. Moses broke the Law through disobeying God and died without entering Canaan, the Promised Land. 

     After Moses’ death, Joshua (Jesus in Greek), led the people across the Jordan (through the river of death) into the Promised Land! Joshua was a “Christ figure” in some ways in the First Testament. When Jesus said I have not come to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it, it became very clear indeed, “the Lord saves.” While Joshua was a type, Jesus is the real Savior. What’s in his name? Salvation!

Music: “At the Name of Jesus” Holy Childhood Schola Cantorum


Glory be to thee, O Christ, whose praises the angels sing, whom the heights of heaven adore. In the miracle of thy stable-birth and in the mystery of thine incarnation thy people everywhere rejoice this day. To thy name help us to bow the knee and all its worshiping, bow the head and all its thinking, bow the will and all its choosing, bow the heart and all its loving. Glory be to thee, O Father, who by the birth of thy Son didst give a great light to dawn on the world’s darkness. Glory be to thee, O Holy Spirit, who hast again in these days hung forth a star in the lowly heaven of every Christian soul and seekest to lead us in the ways of humility and the paths of peace. Blessed be God, the only God: three persons in one eternity of love. Blessed now and blessed for evermore. Amen.    ―Prayers for Sunday Services, p.74

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