This homily was delivered by the Rev. Prof. Thomas Egger on the Eve of the Circumcision and Name of Jesus (31 December 2007) and is posted here with his permission.
The Enduring Name of Jesus
In the name of Jesus.
Our Gospel text is very short this afternoon, just one verse from Luke, chapter 2:
"And on the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, He was named Jesus, the name the angel had given Him before He was conceived."
Do you know any Name more beautiful? Can you think of a better way to end the closing Year of Our Lord 2007 and to step into the New Year of our Lord 2008, than with this strong and enduring Name ringing in our ears and springing from our lips.
Today we gather here in the place of God's Holy Word and God's Precious Sacrament – for here in this place God has caused the precious Name of Jesus to dwell. Here the name of Jesus resounds for you. Here the name of Jesus lifts from you the burden of your sins. Here the name of Jesus imparts eternal life to your dying body. Here the name of Jesus rekindles hope in despairing hearts, rekindles joy in drooping souls, rekindles courage in faltering spirits.
Here the name of Jesus draws us home again, to the Father whom we keep stubbornly forsaking but who has not forsaken us. For He has given us the Christ Child. Here in this place, we have heard the angels heralding His birth. Here in this place, we have seen Him wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in lowly manger. Now today, here in this place, we behold our Infant Lord at age 8 days, being circumcised and being named.
After 8 days, this Mighty, Holy, Precious, Wonderful Name was given to Mary's Son. After 8 days, this Mighty, Holy, Precious, Wonderful Name was given as a gift to all the world. And now today, after 734,883 days (give or take a few) – 734,883 days since his parents named Him, the name of Jesus is just as Glorious, just as Renowned, just a Mighty and Holy and Precious and Wonderful as the day when it was first given. 734,883 days of Jesus' name, resounding in the world.
Where does all the time go? We ask it all the time, even in our own short lives. Where does all the time go? Every one of us can identify with this sentiment – the feeling of time slipping forward, the feeling of the present constantly being nudged off-stage and into the past. You can see it in your family photos. Especially the ones from the 1960s and 70s! In one of my family pictures from the 1970's, I'm about 5 years old and my parents have me dressed in a dark green polyester sportcoat with brick-red polyester pants and a gigantic plaid bow-tie – also polyester! Where does all the time go?
So often our lives seem to be full of anticipation and waiting. Some big event is looming out there in the future, and then, it comes….and it's gone, and after just a few years we can only remember a few things about it…it seems so long ago. That's what life is like, as the years continue to roll past.
As an adolescent, you wonder whom you will marry some day. When you are engaged to marry, it seems like the day will never come and then for the last few weeks it seems like it's coming way too fast and then (!) it's past and gone and even that big day fades into the past, back into distant memory. Maybe you can remember being a child and thinking what it would be like to drive a car. Now, however, I bet you grown-ups can't even remember the first time you drove, unless you crashed or something to make it memorable. Maybe you can remember having young children at home and wondering what they would be like as teenagers and adults…and the next thing you know, they are…and it's hard to remember what they were like as young children. We're fortunate to have cameras, aren't we? Where does all the time go?
It seems to me like life changes dramatically within about every five years. Five years ago, I bet your life was quite a bit different than today – you had some different interests, some different friends, different routines, different problems and worries, different joys, different recipes that you regularly made. And five years from now, your life will be very different again.
If things change that much in just half a decade, think about all of the changes that time has brought through the centuries….through the 734,883 days since our Lord was circumcised and named. The world has seen many changes, large and small, during that time.
But the name of Jesus has not changed, nor will it ever. Long ago, God sent His angel to visit Mary, and to speak to Joseph also, in a dream. There would be a child born who would reign on David's throne forever, He would be called the Son of the Most High, and they were to name Him "Jesus" because He would save His people from their sins. The blood of bulls and goats could never have atoned for the sins of humanity, but God provided this One Jesus to be a very different Sacrifice – a once-and-for-all Sacrifice and a once-and-for-all Savior. And the name that God chose for this once-and-for-all-Savior was "Jesus." The name Jesus means "He saves" or "The Lord saves" – either one fits this Child well, for He does save and He Himself is the Lord who saves.
One great Name, to endure forever. Very early on, still almost 2000 years ago, the enemies of God tried to stifle the Name of Jesus by putting Him to death on a cross. But death could not hold Him. Risen victoriously, Jesus commanded that repentance and forgivness of sins in His name be preached to the ends of the earth, beginning in Jerusalem.
Soon after, Peter and John were arrested for healing a crippled man in the name of Jesus and for preaching to the crowds about resurrection and eternal life in the name of Jesus. The Jewish leaders in Jerusalem were at a loss about what to do with Peter and John. Here's how the book of Acts tells the story: "What are we going to do with these men?" they asked. "Everybody living in Jerusalem knows they have done an outstanding miracle, and we cannot deny it. But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people we must warn these men to speak no longer to anyone in this name." Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John replied, "Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God's sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard."
From that day on and to this very day, and throughout eternity for that matter, the precious Name of Jesus has been and will be on the lips of His people. Lord Jesus, have mercy. Help me, Jesus. I love Thee, Lord Jesus. Don't leave me, Jesus.
In Hebrew, they would say, "Yeshua."
Greeks pronounce "Iesous."
He is called "Jesu" by Germans,
And "Jesus" by Mexicans.
It's all the same Name, the name of the Son of the Most High God, born of Mary to save His people from their sins. The name chosen by God, announced by an angel, and finally declared by His parents on the 8th day.
It is the name we pronounce "Jesus." Jesus: this Name has endured for 734,883 days, for over 2000 years. It will hold us in its strength also in the year ahead. Whoever believes in this Name will be saved, for "salvation is found in no one else, and there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved." God has declared this Name to be the "Name above every name." Christians of every age have counted themselves privileged to be insulted, to suffer, and even to be killed for the sake of this Name. It has long been and will always be, in the year 2008 and in the year 8008 (if the world endures) the most Mighty, Holy, Precious, and Wonderful Name and our most enduring Treasure in this ever-changing world.
It is this Name which God has placed on you in your Baptism. It is in this Name that we gather tonight around this altar. It is in this Name that we end the year behind and enter the year ahead.
"Jesus" – the Name fills our hearts with comfort and peace.
"Jesus" - the power of that Name fills our prayers with boldness and confidence.
"Jesus" – the life of that Name gives us strength and vitality and quiets our fears even in the hour of death.
And in the world to come, the book of Revelation tells us, as we stand around His throne, we "will see His face, and His Name will be on our foreheads. And [we] will reign [with Him and praise His Name] forever and ever."
"On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, He was named Jesus, the name the angel had given Him before He was conceived."
A happy and blessed New Year to each of you, in the Name of Jesus. Amen.