Saturday, December 31, 2011

Jesus in the New Year

From Messiah Lutheran Church's January 2012 Newsletter

There is much to think about at the beginning of a New Year. What’s in store for us? Prosperity? More hard times ahead? Will my family remain healthy? Will our nation remain safe or will we have to engage in another war somewhere around the world? What’s going to happen in the elections in 2012? It would be nice to have a crystal ball to have all the answers. Unfortunately, the future is a mystery.

All these questions and uncertainties swirl around at the top of the year. However, there is one certainty that we can all count on. At the beginning of another New Year, the Church focuses on Jesus and his certain grace and mercy towards us sinners. That should come as no surprise, of course. If we’re not focused on Jesus, then we’re certainly focused on the wrong thing.

On New Year’s Day, the Church celebrates the circumcision and naming of Jesus. We remember his circumcision because January 1 is eight days after Christmas. Through circumcision, each newborn boy in Israel was brought into the covenant community and obligated to keep the Law. The child was also publicly named for the first time, even though mother and father had probably already picked out a name. In the case of Jesus, his name was revealed to Joseph by the angel Gabriel, who instructed, “You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). Jesus, or Yeshua as it is in Hebrew, means “Yahweh saves.”

Even this seemingly insignificant act of circumcision played an important role in the life of our Savior and the plan of salvation. Jesus took on the burden of the Law and kept it perfectly for us all throughout his life. This was also the first time the Savior shed his blood for us. The knife in those friendly hands at his circumcision foreshadowed the hammer in hostile hands when Jesus later shed his blood again for the sins of the world when nailed to the cross.

The English hymnwriter William How put it this way:
Jesus! Name of priceless worth
To the fallen of the earth
For the promise that it gave,
“Jesus shall His people save.”
Jesus! Name of mercy mild,
Given to the holy Child
When the cup of human woe
First He tasted here below.
Jesus! Only name that’s giv’n
Under all the mighty heav’n
Whereby those to sin enslaved
Burst their fetters and are saved.
Jesus! Name of wondrous love,
Human name of God above;
Pleading only this, we flee
Helpless, O our God, to Thee. (LSB 900)
May the name of Jesus grant you hope and comfort throughout the coming year. The future is a mystery. But in Jesus, it is no mystery how God feels about you. You are loved. You are forgiven. You have the promise of his help and aid in the face of whatever comes your way in the days and months ahead. And a future with Jesus is no mystery. Eternal life is yours now and always because of his finished work at the cross and the empty tomb.

At the beginning of a new year, there is indeed much to think about.

Think about Jesus and all that he is and has done for you.

In Christ’s service and yours,
Pastor Onken

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