I wonder what the preacher will preach on today at the Christmas Day service. There’s a good likelihood that he will pick up on the account in Luke 2. If they do, I suspect that the reading will focus on v1-20. We’ll hear about the census, the journey to Bethlehem. We may well hear quite a lot more about that, speculative donkeys and invented innkeepers than the text gives warrant to, not to forget the also invented stable.
We’ll then join the shepherds in amazement on the hill top, we’ll hurry down to Bethlehem with the Shepherds and then we’ll leave the Christmas characters behind. But look again, that’s not where the story ends.
The next big paragraph marker is in verse 22 which begins with the words “when the time came…” We have moved on in the story by this stage and no doubt, at some point, the preacher will pick up on the purification visit to the Temple though they will probably pass over that bit and get onto the prophetic insight of Simeon and Anna.
However, before we get there, we should finish off the nativity story and that finishes not with the Shepherds returning but rather with these words in v 21.
21 On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.
If we pass over this verse, we miss the point where the angel’s word to Mary is fulfilled, and Jesus receives his name that speaks of the salvation he brings.
We would also miss the bit about Jesus being circumcised. First, by being circumcised, Jesus was identifying with his people, Israel. He is truly God with us and just as he takes on the life, identity and therefore sin of Israel, so too, he also takes on himself the sin of the world as he identifies with us.
Second, he is obedient to God’s command. Jesus is the faithful and obedient son who therefore can impute his righteousness to us. Third, by receiving circumcision, he receives the mark of the covenant, the seal of God’s promise.
This last point is crucial because the sign of circumcision represented God’s covenant promise to Abraham and that promise was that Abraham’s descendant would break the curse and bring blessing.
Jesus receives the mark of the promise that he will fulfil.