And so we have begun another year, another year of grace, the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand Twelve. As members of the body of Christ, our new year has begun even as our lives as Christians began, in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Our lives in Christ began as He placed His Name on us at the font, where He marked us with the sign and seal of the new covenant of Holy Baptism. We have been placed under the new covenant, for the old is no longer binding upon us but fulfilled in the Person of Jesus Christ. The old covenant of circumcision is no longer binding, for the One who has no need for the Law willingly placed Himself under the Law for our sake, fulfilling the Law and bearing its penalty for our sake through the second shedding of His holy, precious blood. The first shedding came on the eighth day of the new temple. The temple was where the Lord established His most holy presence, which had come in His infant body. The Lord has dwelt among His people in the Ark of the Covenant and later in the physical building of the Temple. Then for nine months the temple was the womb of the blessed Virgin Mother. At that time this prenatal temple beheld the very presence of God with His body and with His Name, a name given to the Child not by Mary, His mother, nor Joseph, His foster father, but by His heavenly Father, as His angel spoke to them: "You shall call His Name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins" (Mt. 1:21b).
Words mean things. In biblical times, names had meanings. The angel of the Lord gave Mary and Joseph the name the Child was to have as well as the reason why the Child was to receive the Name that is above all names. This Child would save His people from their sins. The Name JESUS means "YHWH saves," as does its Hebrew cognate Joshua, as the Lord through Joshua saved His people and took them to the Promised Land, out of the hands of their oppressors. So also this Child would grow to save His people, bringing them to heaven by way of the cross, where His Name was displayed for the entire world to see.
The world has seen the Name of Jesus and wandered as though blind. The world has heard the Name of Jesus and turned a deaf ear. At the Name of Jesus every knee shall bow, but the world acts as though crippled. The Lord commands that His Name not be misused, not to be taken in vain, for it is the Name of the saving YHWH. Yet all too often we toss His Name about as if we were shooting darts and speaking in a pub, invoking His Name to call down curses on things He need not curse, thereby condemning ourselves. We swear when we are not under oath, needlessly calling God as our Witness, instead of simply letting our "Yes" be "Yes" or letting our "No" be "No," and our speech comes from the evil one. In certain circles we are even afraid to speak the Name of Jesus when we have the opportunity to confess His Name. In this evil, sinful world, God is unconstitutional, and Christmas is outlawed in many places. Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, festivals of false religions, are tolerated and even promoted, but Christmas is offensive because it is the Christ Mass. Christmas is the annual celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, the Lord who saves His people. We invoke this sacred Name when we ought not and do not when we ought. Either way, we break the Second Commandment.
We do not show our Lord the respect and the worship that is due Him and His Name because we do not fear and love Him as He has commanded us to do. We do not behold the Christ child, whose circumcision and naming is observed today, and we cut ourselves off from Him. We place ourselves outside the covenant He has established for us. We may have been baptized, but we do not always act as though we are baptized. Not everyone who says to Jesus, "Lord, Lord," will enter the kingdom of heaven. To those who live apart from His Name, He tells us that He does not know us, nor will He acknowledge us before God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.
"But as many as received Him," St. John tells us, "to them He gave the right to become the children of God, to those who believe in His Name" (Jn. 1:12). "Nor is there salvation in any other," as St. Peter reminds us, "for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). The Name of Jesus itself means "YHWH saves." Anyone who believes in His Name has exactly what His Name says, namely, salvation from the Lord. Anyone who believes in Jesus Christ as his Savior and Lord has His Name placed upon him through faith. The Name of Jesus brings with it salvation, eternal life, and the forgiveness of sins to all who confess their sins and confess His Name. To confess the Name of Jesus Christ is to confess Jesus Christ Himself. He and His Name are inseparable. Where His Name is, there is He. Gathered in the Name of Jesus, He has graced us with His presence, coming to you today in His Word and in His body and blood. The blood He shed in the temple is the very blood He gives you at His Table to drink, along with His body to eat, that you would receive the gifts He brings in this holy meal: forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and salvation. He brings you what His Name says He brings you, as the angel announced to Joseph: "She will bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins" (Mt. 1:21), and He does this by bringing His gifts to you here, the very gifts He won for you as He bled and died on the cross for you, gifts made sure and certain by His rising from the dead on the third day.
The Lord is present here in His house where He bestows His Name and, therefore, His gifts upon you today. God will bestow His thrice-holy Name upon you in the benediction today as well. The Lord Jesus Christ bestows upon you the Name that was given Him on the eighth day, the first day of the His willful submission to the Law, the submission that saw its perfect fulfillment on the eighth day of Holy Week, the first day of the resurrected Lord, the first day of the new creation, the day from whence we have life in Him forever.
On the eighth day Jesus submitted Himself to the Law and shed His blood under the old covenant and would shed His blood again, the second time on the cross, the blood of the new covenant, the blood which purifies us from all sin. Through the blood He shed on the cross and the grave which He overcame, He has established the new covenant with us at the font, placing upon us the same Name that was placed upon Him at His circumcision, the Name placed upon us at our Baptism, that we would not be cut off from the Lord. As the Psalmist writes: "And those who know Your Name will put their trust in You; for You, LORD, have not forsaken those who seek You" (Ps. 9:10), and again, "His Name shall endure forever. His Name shall continue as long as the sun. And men shall be blessed in Him; all nations will call Him blessed. Blessed be the LORD God of Israel, who only does wondrous things! And blessed be His glorious Name forever! And let the whole earth be filled with His glory. Amen and Amen" (Ps. 72:19).
Yes, dear fellow redeemed, with the holy Name of Jesus upon us, we are blessed. We are also moved by the Holy Spirit to boldly confess the Name of Jesus, regardless of whether it is politically correct to do so or not, for the Lord is greater than the so-called political correctness. After all, He has also overcome sin, death, and the power of the devil, and has done so for our sake. And we get to tell the good news about Jesus and the salvation that is found in Him alone. We again join the Psalmist who writes: "I will praise You with my whole heart; before the gods I will sing praises to You. I will worship toward Your holy temple, and praise Your Name for Your lovingkindness and Your truth, for You have magnified Your word above all Your Name" (Ps. 138:1-2), and we remember the hymn refrain: "Lift high the cross, the love of Christ proclaim Till all the world adore His sacred Name" (LSB 837:refrain). God grant this in Jesus' Name and for His sake. Amen.
SOLI DEO GLORIA
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