“At the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb” (Luke 2:21).
This may be the most forgotten verse in the Christmas story.
But there is something here we need to notice.
The baby was circumcised and officially given the name Jesus on the eighth day after his birth.
What would it cost Jesus to provide for our salvation? He paid for our sins with the price of his own blood. Here is the vital connection. Jesus is just one week old, and already he enters into the pain of human existence. Eight days old and his blood is already being shed.
Joseph probably performed the circumcision himself. If that is true, then it is also symbolic. Jesus begins his life by shedding his own blood at the hand of his Father. Those few drops of blood point to the bloody way his life will end. The infant’s cradle is tinged with a crimson reflection from the Redeemer’s cross.
A Christmas play asks the question, “What did Joseph do the day after Christ was born?” We assume he helped with Mary and the baby, making things as comfortable as he could. But what about the next day? The play imagines that since Joseph is a carpenter, he begins making a crib for Jesus. As he does, he recalls the celebration they had with the shepherds and says to himself, “If they treated Him like this when He was just a baby, how will they treat him when they find out he is the Son of God?” At that exact moment in the play, the lights suddenly go off, and all you can hear is a hammer hitting wood as a spotlight splashes its beams on a bloody cross.
A contemporary Christmas card captures this well. A baby’s footprint appears on the cover with the words, “Unto you is born this day a Savior.” When you open the card, the phrase, “Which is Christ the Lord,” is superimposed over a grown man’s handprint, complete with a bloody hole in the palm.
There is a direct line from his birth to his circumcision to the cross. Circumcision foreshadows the blood he will shed for the sins of the world.
How far is God willing to go? We can’t even imagine the answer to that question. There is no pit so deep that the love of God is not deeper still. At Christmastime, we do not celebrate the birth of some aloof God who stands afar off. No, we celebrate the birth of Immanuel—God with us.
How far is God willing to go? Whatever pit you’re in, God is willing to enter that pit and meet you there. That’s what he did 2000 years ago.
Almighty God, you did not spare yourself from anything. You came all the way to the bottom because that’s where we were. Thank you for Jesus Christ, whose blood has set us free. Amen.
Musical bonus: Dating back to the 8th century, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” may be our oldest Christmas carol. Let’s enjoy this beautiful version by aeseaes.