Sermon for The Feast of the Name and Circumcision of Jesus – 1.1.23
+ Sunday January 1st, 2023 – The Feast of the Name and Circumcision of Jesus +
Beautiful Savior Lutheran
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
I had a different sermon prepared for you today. Today is the day the Church remembers the Feast of the Name and Circumcision of Jesus. But then sometimes you get a phone call, like I did, on Friday night, that our dear sister in Christ, Cathy Coleman, had died suddenly and unexpectedly.
Today is eight days from Christmas. Today is a new year. Today is the day we remember the naming of Jesus and his circumcision. We’ll talk about those. We’ll hear our Lord’s Word about those. Though I couldn’t help but thinking last night that we also needed to hear from our Lord’s Word, what he says to us in our grief, what he says to us when we are all thinking much the same thing this morning. How we notice there’s an empty spot in the pew, or someone’s car that wasn’t in the parking lot first thing this morning.
On Friday evening our dear sister in Christ, Cathy Coleman, was called home to our Lord on Friday evening. And I’m sure I’m not alone today in thinking that we can’t help but think about that. About grief. About death. And about what our Lord says about that in his Word.
We all grieve. If not today, then some point in the past year. And at some point in this new year we will grieve. Some people say that eventually you’ll get over your grief, just give it time. But that’s not true. Grief isn’t something you get over, like a cold or the flu. You walk through it. Like in Psalm 23. Jesus the Good Shepherd leads and guides you through the valley of the shadow of death. He carries you.
Grief comes to us all differently at times as well, doesn’t it. Sometimes it feels like a sneaker wave. Hits you out of nowhere. Like the disciples in the storm, our Lord says to them and to you, “Fear not, I am with you.” Jesus says it again after his resurrection. “I am with you always even to the end of the age.”
Sometimes grief is like getting the wind knocked out of you. A gut punch. In those moments, remember the words of Isaiah. “By his wounds you are healed.” By the wounds of his hands. His side. His head. By His wounds you are healed.
Sometimes grief brings us a weariness. You feel tired even if you’ve done nothing all day. You feel exhausted. In those moments our Lord says to you, “Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
Sometimes grief stings. Our Lord says something about that for us in 1 Corinthians 15…
51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
55 “O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Sometimes grief is a burden, a weight that you can’t lift no matter how hard you try. For those moments our Lord says in Isaiah that he has born our griefs and carried our sorrows.
Sometimes grief feels like a hole. An emptiness. An empty chair. An empty pew. Empty seat. And our Lord comes and fills that with himself. St. Augustine once said that, “Our hearts are restless, O Lord, until we find our rest in Thee.” The same can be said of our hope and joy. The things we want to feel when we grieve. We feel restless and in turmoil until our Lord fills that hole with his good news. It’s an empty hole until our Lord comes and fills it with his life, death, and resurrection. That’s the only thing that’s going to fit, that will fill. That will make us whole again. Although we try and put lots of things in that hole. Our works, deeds, emotions, our thoughts, and so on. But none of that fills the void when a loved one dies.
So what do we do? What do we do with our grief? Where do we go with our grief? Where do we go when we grieve? We go to the One who has been born for us, with us. The One who received his name on the 8th day for us. The one who was born to bear our grief, bear our sin, and die in our place. So that all who believe, all who have died before us, will never die, as Jesus says.
We go to him who says these words in Revelation 7… 9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 11 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”
13 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” 14 I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
15 “Therefore they are before the throne of God,
and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.
16 They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore;
the sun shall not strike them,
nor any scorching heat.
17 For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd,
and he will guide them to springs of living water,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
On days of grieve and death, we go to Him who is named Jesus. Jesus means YHWH saves. He was named for you on this day. He was circumcised for you. It sounds like a strange thing to celebrate on a new year’s day. But we celebrate it all the same. Because Jesus was born under the Law. The same Law that shows us our sin. Jesus comes under that Law to keep it, fulfill it. So even at eight days old he keeps the Law so that as he grows he will continue to keep the Law for us at every stage of life.
We go to Him who has words of comfort and peace. We come here to His altar to receive His holy body and blood, where we are gathered together with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven. Cathy. And all the saints who have gone before us. We are together in this Holy Communion. When you come here, you are with Christ. And with Christ are all his saints.
You see, grief can be many, many things. Painful. Exhausting. A weight. A burden. The one thing it can’t be. The one thing it cannot do…it cannot endure forever. It cannot last. Our Lord will not it. Our Lord will not let grief and death have the last word. Not today. Not ever. For He hung on the cross. Jesus rose again. Jesus gets the last word.
Jesus puts himself in that hole left by grief and death. He carries our burdens. He bears the weight of grief and death. He collects all our tears. He carries our sorrows. He fills us with his life, death that conquers death. He fills us with the resurrection of the body and the life of the world to come. For days like today when grief and death stares us in the face. For times when we look back and think of what we’ve lost in this past year, this past week.
We also look forward to what will come. The new creation. The new heavens and the new earth. The day when Christ says, “Behold, I make all things new.” The day when everything sad comes untrue. When grief and death will be no more. This is why Jesus is born. Why he is named Jesus for us. Why he is circumcised on the eighth day for us. This is why he walked into our restlessness and our grief and our hopelessness. To fill us with his life.
None of us knows what the new year will bring. The days and the seasons are the Lord’s, and everything we do always has “If the Lord be willing” written across it as James rightly says. But we do know this and have it as our certainty in the midst of uncertainty: We have Jesus’ obedience under the Law, His perfect righteousness, innocence, and blessedness. And we have His Name, the Name by which we are saved, “for He will save His people from their sins.”
This new year along with its hopes and expectations will pass. Fade away. And in many ways fail . And yet, in Christ, God’s promises, peace, and grace will never fade away, fail, or falter. In your grief and sorrow, Christ is with you. Never will he leave nor forsake you.
A blessed 8th day of Christmas and a happy new year to each of you…
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.