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The Name of Jesus

December 31, 2018
By Rev. David French

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The Name of Jesus
Luke 2:21

In comparison to the multitudes stuffed into stockades for the NYE celebration at Times Square and thousands of other places this night, our little service here doesn’t seem like much. While partiers around the world gear up to greet the new year, or to forget the old, our gathering seems pretty tame and dull by comparison.

But, looks can be deceiving. For while the clock ticks down on another year for planet earth, we Christians are gathered to gain a firmer grip on timeless things: to hear the life-giving Word of God and to receive the holy Sacrament of our Savior’s body and blood—to eat and to drink his bread and cup and so proclaim his death until he comes again. The eternal truth of Christ and his kingdom is what counts in this world and the next.

The days of our lives pass as sands through an hourglass. It’s useless to try to stop the relentless march of time. As the hymn writer for our hymn of the Word, Isaac Watts, put it: “Time, like an ever-rolling stream, soon bears us all away; we fly forgotten as a dream, dies at the op’ning day.”

But, everything done in the name of Jesus, will last forever. And, the name of Jesus, that’s what brings us here at the end of 2018 and the beginning of 2019.

Eight days after Jesus was born, he was circumcised, fulfilling the law given under Moses that every male child would receive the mark of the Lord’s covenant. That circumcision marked the beginning of a new life in the kingdom of God—the kingdom that lasts forever. That eighth day was the first day of the new life, the eternal life within the kingdom of God for every circumcised son of Israel.

Count off eight days beginning with December 25, and you arrive at January 1. So it is that while the kingdom of this world observes the beginning of a new solar year in time, we Christians celebrate the circumcision of Jesus. So the first of January becomes for us not just another notch in time, but a genuine link with eternity through the flesh of God’s only begotten Son.

Every son of Israel was given his name at the time of circumcision. So our Lord also was given his name. But his is no ordinary name. His name had literally been given from heaven, announced by an angel to both Mary and Joseph at his conception: “You are to give him the name Jesus, because he shall save his people from their sins” (Mt 1:21; Lk 1:31).

And so, this tiny bundle of humanity was given the strong name Jesus: “the LORD saves.” And he grew up to fulfill his name in ways no one could have imagined. All that God’s holy Law demands from you and me, all of them, Jesus did for us perfectly and completely. All that you and I by our sins have deserved, Jesus took upon Himself and suffered patiently and thoroughly. God the Father laid on him the iniquity of us all, and it killed him.

He endured the cross and grave for us. For our salvation, he was crucified, died, and was buried. And for our justification, He was raised from the dead. No wonder the apostle Paul proclaimed, “God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:9–11). The apostles preached that name and when hauled into court because of it, they confessed, “There is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

We begin the year of our Lord 2019 with mixed emotions. Excitement and anticipation mix with uncertainty and fear within us. There’s so much hate in the world, what will it bring this year? We have our personal fears as well. What about my job, family, health, security? How am I ever going to handle this, that, and the other thing? We wonder.

My friends, we handle whatever we may face in the name of Jesus. That’s how. Now, there’s nothing magical about the name Jesus. But the power of the name of Jesus is the power and authority of Jesus himself. It works this way: When we pray in the name of Jesus, the Father hears our prayer as Jesus’s prayer. When God’s Word is preached in the name of Jesus, it is the authority of Jesus himself that stands behind that Word. When Christians give a cup of cold water in the name of Jesus, it is Jesus himself who provides for the physical needs of the deprived neighbor. When we call on the name of Jesus as we prepare to eat, it is Jesus himself who blesses that food to our good and to the glory of God the Father. The truth is, whatever we do, whether in word or in deed, when it is done in the name of the Lord Jesus, we are giving glory to God.

Whenever and wherever we receive the forgiveness of sins in Jesus’s name, our sins are forgiven by the authority and power of God’s own Son, which is why we confess our sins to Him in the first place. By grace, we are forgiven in the name of Jesus. This evening as we leave the Lord’s Table, we will again hear the announcement of our forgiveness in the name of Jesus. Do you remember how the catechism says we should understand these words of forgiveness spoken by the pastor? “We should receive the pastor’s absolution as from God Himself, not doubting, but firmly believing that by it our sins are forgiven before God in heaven.”

In the name of Jesus we eat and drink his body and his blood for the forgiveness if offers, the life it strengthens, and salvation delivers. In the name of Jesus we bring this year to a close, and in the name of Jesus we begin the new year. And so, we have nothing to fear. For whether we live or whether we die, we belong to the Lord. And so it is, we live and move and have our being all in the name of Jesus. And on a day God has chosen, we will be called to our heavenly home, dying as we have lived; that is, in the name of Jesus our Lord and Savior, our joy and peace, our light in the darkness that will carry us to our eternal home.