Jewish children were circumcised on the eighth day after birth. As a tiny baby, they were marked as God’s children, as children of God’s covenant, as little ones to be redeemed through the coming Christ. Already as children, they were marked as those that had already been chosen, those for whom God had already decided to be their heavenly Father.
St. Paul tells us that Holy Baptism has replaced and superseded circumcision. He writes to the Colossians, “In [Jesus] also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the 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.” (Col. 2:11,12). And so it is good and right that we, like the Jews, mark our children with God’s promise, with the sign of the cross and water joined with the Word. God has decided in Christ to be their heavenly Father, even as their parents decided to become their parents without consulting or asking them. And so we recently heard St. John tell us in the beginning of his Gospel, “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God" (John 1:11-13).
If you visit older and ancient churches, you’ll notice that the baptismal fonts usually have eight sides. Christians have biblically recognized the connection between circumcision and baptism that St. Paul pointed out, and so those eight sides of the font reminded parents as they brought their children to the font that the promises of God were for these little ones as well, as St. Peter reminded the crowd on Pentecost. It was also a reminder to the parents to raise their children in those promises, so that their baptism would not later be rejected, and salvation with it.
It was customary to name the child at the time of circumcision, and so the newborn King was officially named. Why “Jesus”? It was the name that the angel had told Joseph to give the child. What does it mean? The angel told Joseph the Child was to be called Jesus “because He would save His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). His name means “Savior.” What a wonderful name! Every time we hear it we should be reminded of who our Lord is. He is the One who came to save. He is the One who has brought us forgiveness. He is the One who by his cross worked peace between us and his Father, whom we had offended by our sins and whose punishment we deserved. While the world and other religions might be fine with considering him everything but—they are fine with considering him a teacher, philosopher, or example—the foremost thing our Jesus came to be and still remains is Jesus, Savior.
As we close one year and begin another, we do so with Jesus. As we examine ourselves after another year and consider our sins, we have a Jesus. As we prepare for a new year, one that we hope will be better after a rough last few, we have a Jesus. Our God is our Jesus. He has loved us, and he does love us. He has forgiven us, and he does forgive us. He is Jesus for us, and Jesus is no small name. St. Paul reminds us, “God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:9-11).
In this Jesus, we press on into 2022, and in this Jesus, we are ready for whatever it brings—Jesus, the promise of God in human flesh and still among us in Word and Sacrament. Jesus is “Jesus,” for us!