Luke 2:21 “On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise him, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he had been conceived.”
In the second commandment, God warns us to be careful about our use of his name. He intends to do more than prevent us from using it flippantly, for jokes or entertainment; or hurtfully, to vent our anger or frustration. He is also urging us to use his name in a way which pleases him and blesses us.
So it is that the Lord wanted the priests to use his name to bless the people in the Old Testament. In doing so they “put his name” upon them. So it is that Jesus sent his disciples into the world to make disciples by baptizing them “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” So it is that Jesus invited us to bring our prayers to the Father “in Jesus’ name.”
The name Jesus means “The Lord saves.” What if we lived the entire coming year cognizant that Jesus is my Savior? What if we were ever conscious of who he is and what he has done? How would it change our lives?
On the one hand, we might go through this coming year truly aware of our sins, the reason we need saving. Why is it still so hard to admit them? Why don’t we take them seriously? We try to hide them, deny them, or pass the blame. It is still so painful to face the truth about ourselves.
In part, we are scared. We know what God thinks of sinners. In Psalm 5 David says, “You hate all who do wrong.” Paul reminds us in Galatians, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the book of the law.” We still want to be thought of as good people on our own terms. It scares us to think we might be accepted any other way.
Then there is the matter of trust. We cling to certain sins because we deeply want them. We rationalize them. We deny they even qualify as sin. They make me feel good. By contrast, I’m not so sure how God feels about me. I’m not so sure I trust him when he tells me he has something better in mind.
But if we live this year in Jesus’ name, we can draw on its comfort. We can live each day aware that Jesus has lived as my Savior. We see this beginning at his circumcision.
Circumcision was part of God’s Old Testament law. Circumcision was a vivid reminder that God had made a covenant, a promise, to his people. He claimed them as his own. Circumcision was also a vivid reminder that sin begins at the very source of our life: it is passed from parent to child from the very time of our conception. Thus it must be cut away at its source. Even this original, inherited sin must be removed before we are acceptable to God.
Jesus had no personal need for circumcision. He was already chosen by God in a way which far surpassed that of any other human being. He needed no reminders of our sinful flesh and the need for its removal. He was sinless, because God was his only Father and he was born of a virgin.
But Jesus came to be our Savior. With his circumcision, he was saving us. He was keeping this law for us. Here he began to offer his heavenly Father the perfect obedience we owed. He did so in our place–as our substitute.
Live your year in Jesus’ name, and draw on this comfort: Jesus lived as your substitute. He lived as our Savior not only at his circumcision, but every single day he spent on earth. He still does. Everything he did–every breath he took, every movement he made–he did as our substitute. As you listen to the gospel lesson at church, or read it for yourself at home, take comfort! Jesus is doing all these things to save you. He is teaching the pure word of God, performing miracles of mercy, and loving people to make up for our failures.
Do you understand what peace will be yours this year if you begin, if you live your year in Jesus’ name–always aware that he is your Savior? We need not try to hide our sin in fear (though sincere sorrow is still in place). Jesus’ blood washes every sin away. Jesus’ holy life replaces our disobedient and rebellious lives. His holy life and innocent death is all the Father sees when he looks at you or me.
Doesn’t this also assure us we can trust God? We can conclude with Paul, “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all, how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” Everything our Savior tells us–whether identifying sins, giving us promises, or instructing us how to live–he tells us only because he loves us. Every hardship we endure happens for our good, because he is Jesus, the Savior, and this is our comfort.
It is all promised in the name he has been given.