My heart changed.

When eight days were completed for his circumcision, he was named Jesus 

Thank you for joining as we continue in the celebration of the Christmas Season and in our expectation of the Lord’s return in glory.

The question on everyone’s mind – why celebrate this? I mean, think about it. This ceremony performed probably in Joseph and Mary’s home and all it entails – well it seems both minor and kind of gross.

The Roman Church got rid of this celebration and converted it to a Marian Feast. That cleaned it all up, right? They do not have to think about all this, and they thought they made it all pretty. Unfortunately, they lost the point.

So why do we celebrate our Lord’s circumcision? There are several very important reasons to celebrate.

One reason is that it is factual. January 1st is eight days from December 25th, and in accord with God’s instruction to Abraham which Joe so elegantly read, every male among you, when he is eight days old, shall be circumcised.

Another reason, and this is particularly important for us, is that the fact of the circumcision, the pain and loss of blood, was testament to Jesus’ humanity. Indeed, God had become man. Jesus laid down His Deity and took on our flesh so He could deliver on all the Father’s promises to us.

Jesus as man was the only One Who could save us from our sins by paying their penalty, Who could redeem us, and Who could make us new and co-heirs with Him to eternity in the Kingdom now and to come.

How privileged we all are that God became man, that His humanity was one-hundred percent real and full. Many ancient heresies tried to downplay or outright rejected Jesus’ humanity, but without that humanity we could not have been saved, our debt would not be paid, we would remain our old fallen selves.

In the circumcision we are reminded that this baby boy, Jesus, faced all we face. He was not some magical figure, sitting up in the manger and doing calculus, or speaking, or anything other than what 8-day old babies do – eating, crying, and needing a diaper change.

Finally, the circumcision is a sign in the old covenant, the covenant that Jesus, as God, enjoined on the Jewish people and all in their nation.

Jesus took on this sign of the old covenant in His flesh to declare that He was of Israel, its true son, and just as the sign of the old covenant was in His flesh so would the sign of the new covenant be in His flesh – in nail marks, scars, and a pierced side.

For us, the new covenant in Christ’s flesh and blood frees us, as St Paul says, from the Law and its prescriptions. We live a new changed existence in grace.

St. Paul is being very careful in exhorting the Galatians and us so we might perceive our new reality – who we really are as a changed people. The Galatians, and some today, believe that they can do stuff – be circumcised, cook a certain way, carry out lists of activities and be saved. How wrong they are!

Our salvation is in the God/man Jesus. He completed that work. Now we must accept Him, live changed lives, and walk His way in faith working through love.

True freedom.

The sea beheld and fled; the Jordan turned back. The mountains skipped like rams, the hills like lambs of the flock. 

This scripture, taken from today’s Alleluia verse, comes from Psalm 114. It speaks of God’s awesome power in leading the people of Israel out of Egypt to freedom. He freed His people from the bondage of slavery, and from being trapped back into it, through the parted waters of the sea.

Thus today, Jesus comes from Nazareth in Galilee with this purpose in mind. He steps into and parts the water, for a baptism He didn’t need, to save people who didn’t deserve it, so we could be truly free. 

Jesus was implementing His Father’s plan to save and free us, for each and every one of us have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Having no ability to save or free ourselves, Jesus steps into the waters to tie Himself, the sinless one, to the suffering state of humanity and to identify Himself with sinful mankind, “Because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors.

The scene was dramatic. Large crowds. John preaching. People confessing their sins and being baptized. Then Jesus steps into the water. He rises up, with water dripping from His body, the Spirit descends in the form of a dove and the Father’s voice is heard: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

Today is the next step in the love story that ends our bondage to sin, frees us from ever having to go back, destroys the fear of death, and offers hope for all who chose friendship with God.

This event which we celebrate today publicly proclaims to the world that the Son of God entered the battle to save us from sin and to truly free us. We are freed from eternal death and the power of the worldly who serve the evil one.

The Bible is clear, people break God’s commandments, they serve the world, but have the option to restore their lost and broken intimacy and peace with God. We all have the chance to be free.

True freedom takes true faith. It takes a faith that says no to the world, no to those that would exploit us for their own gain, and no to those who would use the Holy Name of Jesus to further their selfish ends. The world, governments, politicians, and systems cannot give freedom. Rather, freedom comes from an act of faith, our kneeling and saying, Lord, I place my life in Your hands. I repent and desire only to return to You and Your true freedom.

The good news of the gospel is that true freedom is ours for the asking. Once we have asked, we are invited onto the gospel road where we walk in the footsteps of Jesus, proclaim His message, invite those who do not know Him, and celebrate the true freedom that has removed from us any sense of unworthiness, guilt, shame, or condemnation. True freedom!