1 January is the feast day in the church of the Circumcision & Naming of Jesus.
Scripture for the day: Numbers 6.22-27; Psalm 8; Galatians 4.4-7; Luke 2.15-21
On the eighth day of Christmas, apart from maids a-milking, we turn our attention to Jesus’ life as part of an observant, Jewish family, and the ritual applied to all Jewish boys on their eighth day: circumcision. It is a reminder of the humanity of Jesus.
At the time of circumcision, the child is formally named: in this case, Jesus. Except that as a Jewish baby, Jesus would have been named Yeshuah, which we Anglicise as Joshua. It means, ‘God saves.’
How does God save? One aspect of this is the sacrifice of Jesus’ life for human sin. But Joshua, in Jewish scripture, was the successor to Moses, the one who led the people of Israel into the promised land. In many ways, Jesus was a new Moses, leading away from slavery to sin; but he also leads his people into the opportunity of a new promised land of justice and peace.
To do that, he did not simply die on a cross. He lived a fully human life, filled with active ministry and teaching. He was rooted in the earthy reality of human existence and human life, with all its ups and downs, all its trials and tribulations, all its sorrow and joy, all its pain (including circumcision) and pleasure. The life of Jesus is a signpost, a guide book, a pointer to human living as God would like it to be.
When we are baptised, we receive “Christian” names, which ties our naming to that of Jesus, and places an obligation on us that his name may continue to be remembered as a blessing. This challenges us to be active in the way that Jesus’ name is applied to us as ‘Christ-ians.’
This is not superhuman stuff. As Oscar Romero said, “We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realising that. This enables us to do something, and to do it very well. It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.” But it is definitely within the realm and scope of human living.
This little remembrance of Jesus’ active participation in our human lives serves as a reminder that the divine saviour chose to enter the world in the most vulnerable human form, accepted the limitations of human existence, and then burst those limits by conquering death.
We have four more days of this all-too-short season of remembering the incarnation of Jesus, ‘God saves,’ to ponder our place in continuing his work of salvation.