Sermon for Sunday, January 1st, 2023, The Festival of the Circumcision of Christ, or the Festival of the Holy Name

The Lessons: Exodus 34:1-9; Psalm 8; Romans 1:1-7; Luke 2:15-21

The Text: Luke 2:15-21

The Topic: Jesus Christ, Savior, and Lord


Leith Anderson was once visiting Manila in the Philippines when he was taken, of all places, to the Manila garbage dump. Tens of thousands of people make their homes on that dump site. They have constructed shacks out of the things other people have thrown away. And they send their children out early every morning to scavenge for food in other people’s garbage so they can have family meals.

People have been born and raised on the garbage dump. They have had their families and died there without ever going anywhere else, even in the city of Manila. It is an astonishing thing.

But a few Americans also live on that garbage dump. They are missionaries who have chosen to leave their own country to communicate the love of Jesus Christ to people who otherwise would never hear it. That is amazing, but not as amazing as the journey our Savior made from heaven to earth. The Son of God knew what he was doing. He knew where he was going. He knew what the sacrifice would be. He journeyed from heaven to earth on a mission to save humanity.[1]

Even the name “Jesus” identifies our Lord with this great mission of saving mankind from sin.


Our Gospel lesson today ends with the verse recording the fact that the child was named Jesus, the name which had been given by the angel Gabriel at the Annunciation to St. Mary (Luke 1:35). This name corresponds to the Jewish name Yeshua, which means “Yahweh saves” or “Yahweh is salvation,” the name given because Jesus would save mankind from their sins (Matthew 1:21). The Holy Name, “Jesus,” is significant since it indicates that through Jesus Christ, God gives salvation from sin, delivering people not only from the guilt of sin, but also from bondage to it. The function and title of “Savior” is included in the Name “Jesus.”


However, the testimony given by the shepherds who had seen the angels and heard their prophetic announcements about Jesus contained more than the news that Jesus is the Savior. Their testimony to all who heard them would have included the news that this child is not only the Savior, but Christ, that is Messiah, God’s Anointed King who will rule the world, and Lord (Luke 2:11c). To worship and receive Jesus and to follow Him, then, means to receive Him, worship Him, and follow Him as both Lord and Savior. Unless one lets Jesus have dominion over every aspect of life, one cannot be saved and delivered completely from sin and evil. Just as these shepherds returned to their fields and flocks glorifying and praising God for all they had seen and heard concerning Jesus, just as it was told to them by the angels, so we have the Gospel of Jesus Christ to share and proclaim, as our lives give honor, glory, and praise to God for saving us from sin. All our Gospel focuses on the Holy Name of Jesus, who is Christ the Lord and Savior!


Having this Gospel of Jesus Christ our Lord, we are bearers of the Good News, a life-giving message that transforms all who believe in Jesus Christ and receive and follow him as Lord and Savior. The salvation that is indicated by the name “Jesus” is not limited to the forgiveness of sins and redemption from hell but extends to deliverance from every kind of bondage to sin and evil. If we are to begin to comprehend this great salvation that Jesus brings we must turn to the pages of the Gospel accounts and the Book of Acts to read of the great miracles and healings wrought by Jesus in his earthly life and afterward by the Holy Spirit at work through the Apostles and evangelists. Even from Isaiah 61:1-3, we understand that the preaching of the Good News is accompanied by miracles of healing, including the healing of the broken-hearted and deliverance for those who are oppressed by Satan. The Gospel brings “the oil of joy,” “the garment of praise” instead of mourning and a spirit of heaviness (Isaiah 61:3). People’s minds are to be renewed by God’s word, and their attitudes transformed, so that they may have the mind of Christ (Romans 12:1-2; 1 Corinthians 2:6-16).


Since we know that the Lord Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior, we must allow him to change our ideas and our outlook on life. No longer must any kind of sin or evil condition our minds and our thinking, but we must let the Holy Spirit transform us and sanctify us, so that we may live in growing conformity to Christ’s nature and character, bearing the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).

[1] Leith Anderson, “A God’s-Eye View of Christmas,” Preaching Today Audio, no, 208, Quoted on p.76, Craig Brian Larson & Phyllis Ten Elshof (General Editors): 1001 Illustrations that Connect. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, Christianity Today International, 2008.

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