“On the eighth day..”

Luke 2:21 “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.”

The Christmas season tracts certain important events in the birth narrative of Jesus.  The two weeks following Christmas are considered Christmastide.  December 25 was set in the 4th century as Christmas Day as it corresponds to the winter solstice on the Roman calendar and is nine months after March 25, the spring equinox.  The Eastern Orthodox Christians go by the Julian calendar so Christmas falls on what is January 7 on western calendars. This is approximately 12 to 14 days later.

         Leviticus 12 gives instructions through Moses that a woman, after the birth of a son, is unclean for seven days and then on the eighth day the baby boy is to be circumcised and the mother then waits 33 days to be purified from her bleeding.  Mary and Joseph are following Mosaic Law that protected women plus circumcision of the child was an important ritual passed down from Abraham and noted by doctor Luke.  According to African tradition a circumcised person is considered a full member of the community and identified by name.  We would say the same about infant baptism.  Circumcision becomes a divisive topic in early Christianity.  Was it necessary for converts to be circumcised to be Christians?  Acts 15 talks about the Jerusalem council where this topic was debated. Quite a bit was said in Paul’s epistles, letters, about circumcision.

         Galatians 5:5-7 clarifies, “For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.” 

Jesus was circumcised to follow Jewish tradition but the equivalent for us today is for our hearts to be circumcised to faith and love.  Our sinful selves are selfish and we are prone to wander but faith calls us back to focus on Jesus and love. Committing to relationship with Jesus is equivalent to circumcision of the heart.

         We are coming to the end of 2021 and one of the questions we might reflect about is the condition of our hearts – circumcised to love or struggling with selfishness and self-centeredness.  To whom are we committed in 2022?  And then who would we pray to be more loving towards this coming year? Set just one or two small, measurable goals that are achievable.  Perhaps “love” is too big a word and so you might want to use a different word like “tolerant” or “kind” or “forgiving.”  All point to improved relationship, not only with God but also with people around you.  You can always add more names as you work on this.  Blessings as you seek to grow in 2022! 

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