New Year’s Day
January 2, 2022
Who Are You?
On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise him, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he had been conceived. (NIV1984)
Dear fellow worshipers of the Child of Bethlehem,
There is a story about a 13-year-old orphan who was about to be adopted. He had been abandoned as an infant and no one knew who his parents were. All his life he was known only as Mark because he had no last name of his own. He was nobody’s. But now he was going to be Mark Somebody. He could be Mark Smith, or he could be Mark Johnson. It didn’t make any difference to him! He would finally have a name! Having a name meant that he was wanted. Having a name meant that he was chosen. Having a name meant that he was somebody— and that he was somebody’s!
Today, New Year’s day, is when the Christian church traditionally looks at the naming of the Child of Bethlehem. If there is any Person and if there is any Name that causes questions to arise it is the Person and the Name of the Child of Mary. Today as we gather together to usher in the year 2022 let’s use this simple yet powerful verse from Luke chapter two to address one simple yet powerful question. The question is: Who Are You? Let’s first address this question in reference to Mary’s Child. Then let’s address this question in reference to ourselves.
The question of Who are you? was asked in reference to Mary’s Child pretty much throughout His entire life here on this earth. To help you see this let’s start at the end of His life and work our way back to the time of our text, shall we? As the Roman soldiers nailed Mary’s Child to a cross on a hill called Calvary (Pointing to the cross) people would undoubtedly want to know who this man was and what He had done to deserve crucifixion. So a sign was placed above His head— a sign which clearly answered the question of Who are you? (See John 19:19) When the Child of Mary stood before the Roman governor named Pontius Pilate the religious leaders of God’s Chosen People insisted that He must die because of the claims He was making concerning who He is. (See John 19:7) This put so much fear in Pilate’s heart that he asked Jesus, “Where do you come from?” In other words Pilate was asking Mary’s Child, Who are you? On the Sunday before He died the Child of Mary rode triumphantly into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey. Matthew tells us that as Jesus entered the city “the whole city was stirred and asked, ‘Who is this?’” (Matthew 21:10). When the Child of Mary told His enemies that if someone keeps His words, they will never see death the enemies responded by saying, “Who do you think you are?” (See John 8:53) One day as Mary’s Child was walking with His disciples He asked them the question, “Who do people say I am?” (See Matthew 16:13) His disciples responded, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah; and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets” (Matthew 16:14). When Mary’s Child came home to Nazareth He was asked to deliver the sermon in His home synagogue. After reading from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah He said, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21). For all practical purposes the people of Nazareth responded by saying, “Who do you think you are?” When the Child of Mary was twelve years old He sat amidst the religious teachers of Israel in the Temple of the Lord at Jerusalem “listening to them and asking them questions.” (Luke 2:46) Scripture very clearly tells us that these religious teachers were “amazed at his understanding and his answers” (Luke 2:47). It wouldn’t surprise me at all if one of those religious teachers looked at this twelve-year-old boy and asked the question— Who are you?
That brings us back to our text for today, “On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise him, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he had been conceived.” Having just celebrated Christmas we are all very well aware of the fact that when the angel Gabriel appeared to the virgin Mary to reveal to her that she had been chosen to give birth to great King David’s Greater Son, the “Son of the Most High,” he also told her, “You are to give him the name Jesus” (Luke 1:31). We also remember that when Joseph learned that Mary was pregnant he contemplated divorcing her because he knew that he was not the father of Mary’s Child. But an angel of the Lord came to him in a dream and said, “’Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins’” (Matthew 1:20-21).
In and of itself the name “Jesus” was not an unusual or an uncommon name for a Jewish boy back in this day and age. It was simply a variation of “Joshua”— a very common name among God’s people. The name itself means, “the Lord saves.” But when this name is given to Mary’s Child it proclaims a gloriously unique truth! As the angel made clear to Joseph, Mary’s Child had one goal, one purpose, one reason for coming into this world. As the true Son of the of the one and only living God Mary’s Child would “save his people from their sins.” For Joseph the question of Who are you? when asked in reference to Mary’s Child was now answered. Mary’s Child is the long-awaited Promised Messiah. Mary’s Child is the “Immanuel” spoken of by the prophet Isaiah. Mary’s Child is this world’s only Savior from sin!
We also need to make sure that we do not overlook how both the circumcision and the naming of Mary’s Child brings us back full circle to the cross on Calvary’s hill. (Pointing to the cross) Not only did the circumcision of Mary’s Child on the eighth day after His birth bring Him into the covenant relationship that the Lord had established with Abraham, but the blood that Mary’s Child shed in His circumcision is a vivid reminder to us of how Mary’s Child would “save his people from their sins.” (Pointing to the cross) As the apostle Peter so beautifully remind us, “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:18-19).
After Joseph and Mary had finished fulfilling all the requirements of the Law of their God, what did they do next? They went home. They went home and continued living a devout and God-fearing life. Imagine what it must have been like for Joseph and Mary to raise Jesus and watch Him grow. There were no temper tantrums. There was no disobedience. There was never any disrespect. Joseph had the privilege of teaching Mary’s Child the Word of God. They worshiped and they prayed together. And if ever— if ever— either Joseph or Mary looked at their Child in pure amazement and wonder and said in their hearts Who are you? they undoubtedly remembered the words that the angel had spoken to them.
We all, of course, realize that the question of Who are you? in reference to Mary’s Child is still being hotly debated to this very day— just not by us! By the grace of God we know who Mary’s Child is. By the grace of God we know that on the cross of Calvary’s hill (Pointing to the cross) Mary’s Child has reached His goal— His goal of saving us from our sins! At the same time, today is a very good day for us to reflect on how Mary’s Child has impacted how the question Who are you? is answered in reference to us. Outwardly people might look at us and answer the question Who are you? by saying that we are a husband or a wife, a parent or a child, a brother or a sister etc., etc., etc. But that is not how Mary’s Child answers the question of Who are you? in reference to you, my friends.
As we close yet another chapter in our journey through this world and as we step once again into the unknown future we can— and we need— to do so with the full confidence of knowing that through faith in what Mary’s Child has accomplished for us we are the saved children of God. Through the Sacrament of Holy Baptism we were “adopted” by the heavenly Father and brought into a special unique covenant relationship with the one and only true God. Through the Sacrament of Holy Baptism the God of heaven gave us a new name— the name “Christian.” As His adopted children we have the comfort of knowing that no matter what may have happened last year, no matter what we may have done, no matter what we may have failed to do we have the freedom to turn to our heavenly Father in prayer and know deep down inside that we are forgiven. As His adopted children we have the confidence of knowing that no matter what the New Year may or may not bring we can always lift our heads high and know that we are the redeemed children of the God of heaven. Yes, my friends, because we know who Mary’s Child is we also have the confidence of knowing who we are— in His eyes! (Pointing to the cross)
My prayer then this morning is that you journey through the year 2022 you will take the time to contemplate the question Who are you? on a regular basis. When you contemplate that question as you look at the Child of Mary, I pray that you are filled with the same awe and the same wonder that filled the hearts of Mary and Joseph as they brought the Child of Bethlehem to be circumcised and given His official name— Jesus, “the Lord saves.” When you contemplate that same question as you look at yourself in the mirror I pray that you are filled with the joy and the confidence of knowing that through faith in Mary’s Child you are a saved, a forgiven and a redeemed child of God.
May you all have a truly blessed New Year!
To God be the glory!