- Numbers 6:22-27
- Psalm 8
- Galatians 4:4-17 OR
- Philippians 2:5-11
- Luke 2:15-21
God’s identity is revealed as “merciful” and “gracious” (Exodus 34:6). Jesus’ name has significance: it is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Joshua, meaning “God saves.”
The observance of the octave (eighth day) of Christmas has roots in the sixth century. The Christian calendar once called this day “The Circumcision and Name of Jesus.” The emphasis on circumcision is from the Jewish tradition, in which every Jewish boy was circumcised and formally named on the eighth day of his life (Leviticus 12:3). Other requirements of Mosaic Law included a dedication of the firstborn (Exodus 13:12-13; Numbers 18:15) and purification of the mother (Leviticus 12:2, 4, 6). And we are reminded of Genesis 17:12, where a sign of the covenant between God and the nation of Israel: “Throughout your generations every male among you shall be circumcised when he is eight days old.”
Already in his youth, Jesus bears the mark of the covenant that he makes new through the shedding of his blood, now and on the cross. That covenant, like Jesus’ name, is a gift that marks the children of God.
A name also represents the true essence of an individual. The use of the Lord’s name invokes the power of God as well as revealing Divine attributes. This can be seen in the Aaronic benediction from today’s reading in Numbers. It was a priestly function to pronounce blessing upon the gathered community, and through such a blessing God’s presence and protective power were invoked. Even today, many church communities end prayer services and church committee meetings with this prayer of blessing.
Baptized into Christ, the church begins a new year in Jesus’ name.