In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The blessing is in the Name. So it was almost 1500 years before Jesus was born. Moses was instructed by God to tell Aaron and the priests after him to bless the people of Israel by proclaiming the Name of God over them. Yahweh. So shall they put My Name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them. Even the material blessings of the Land of Promise were tied to the Name. As Moses says in Deuteronomy 28: “All the peoples of the earth shall see that you are called by the name of Yahweh, and they shall be afraid of you. And Yahweh will make you abound in prosperity, in the fruit of your womb and in the fruit of your livestock and in the fruit of your ground…Yahweh will open to you his good treasury, the heavens, to give the rain to your land in its season and to bless all the work of your hands” (28:10-12).
The blessing is in the Name. When the Temple was built by Solomon, he dedicated it, in part, with these words: “Have regard to the prayer of your servant and to his plea, O Yahweh my God…that your eyes may be open night and day toward this house, the place of which you have said, ‘My Name shall be there,’ that you may listen to the prayer that your servant offers toward this place…And listen in heaven your dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive” (1 Kings 8:28-30). “And Yahweh said to him, ‘ I have heard your prayer and your plea, which you have made before me. I have consecrated this house that you have built, by putting my name there forever. My eyes and my heart will be there for all time” (1 Kings 9:3). My Name shall be there. Where God’s Name is, there is blessing and there is a promise to hear and there is forgiveness of sins.
The blessing is in the Name. “[Mary] will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). So, “at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb” (Luke 2:21). Yah-shua; “Yahweh saves.” That is the Name given to Him in time. But He is also the eternal one who shares a Name with the Father and the Spirit. Therefore, going, make disciples of all nations by baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And look I am with you all the days until the completion of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20). The blessing is in the Name. Wherever His Name is, His eyes and heart will be for all time. But instead of in the temple of stone and wood, He has now embedded the Name into the flesh and blood of a Man named Jesus. In Him is the fulfillment of the promise made to Abraham that his descendents would be as numerous as sand or stars. That is why January 1, whose celebration begins tonight, is a major feast-day for the Christian Church. Circumcision was the sign of the old covenant, a mark made in the flesh of all the fathers of Israel. Everyone born from these marked men, then, becomes part of the covenant. Jesus was a male Israelite, so He, too, was marked on the eighth day. If you want to be part of Israel, you must be either a circumcised male, a female born to a circumcised male, or a woman who marries a circumcised male. But a cutting of flesh does not, in itself, save. “Behold, to Yahweh your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it. Yet Yahweh set his heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring after them, you above all peoples, as you are this day. Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn” (Deuteronomy 10:14-16). Hearts must be changed, not just sexual organs. And by His Name, God has set his heart in love on you. Through Israel’s Jesus, God’s love goes out to all nations. Now it is not through circumcision but through baptism that you become heirs of Abraham’s promise. “In [Jesus] also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead” (Colossians 2:11-12). You are, in a very real way, saved through the circumcision of Jesus. He is the last circumcised Man in Israel, because in Him the whole covenant promise, of which circumcision is the outer mark, is fulfilled. In Him, you put off not a little piece of skin, but the whole body of the flesh. In Christ, your whole sinful nature is shucked off to wither and die. Because you have been buried with Him in baptism and raised with Him in baptism, He has put you into the covenant of Israel, promised to Abraham so many thousands of years ago. “In Jesus Christ you are all sons of God through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” That’s why there’s neither Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female. “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise” (Galatians 3:26-29). By the Name into which you have been baptized, you are a son of God through faith. Though your sins in 2013 are as scarlet, staining everything you touch, in Christ they are white as snow. And, before God, that’s the only promise that matters. In this world and in the world to come, in the past year and in the new year and into eternity, the blessing is in the Name, which you yourself bear because of baptism.
“Now then, all of you who believe in God’s Word, let your watchword for entering the new year be this: ‘I am baptized!’ Although the world may laugh at this comfort, the enthusiasts vex its confidence…nevertheless, abandon any other dearly held pledges and speak only throughout the entire year to come, in all terrors of conscience and necessity through sin and death: ‘I am baptized! I am baptized! Hallelujah!’ And you shall prevail! In every time of need, you will find comfort in your Baptism; on account of it Satan will flee from your faith and confession; and in death you will see heaven opened and will finally come into the joy of your Lord to celebrate a great year of jubilee, a year of praise, with all the angels forever and ever. Amen!” (C.F.W. Walther, quoted in Treasury of Daily Prayer (St. Louis: CPH, 2008), 1078).
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, ESV). Amen.
– Pr. Timothy Winterstein, 12/31/13