This blog follows the Revised Common Lectionary daily readings
6 As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives* in him, 7rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.
8 See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe,* and not according to Christ. 9For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10and you have come to fullness in him, who is the head of every ruler and authority. 11In him also you were circumcised with a spiritual circumcision,* by putting off the body of the flesh in the circumcision of Christ; 12when you were buried with him in baptism, you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.’ 16So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. 17When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. 20The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
21 After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.
This day is now called the Feast of the Holy Name because mentioning circumcision is a bit earthy for modern religion. It does of course give the church a chance to celebrate the name Jesus, which, as the Greek form of the Hebrew Yehoshua or Aramaic Yeshua, conceals the Jewishness of the one called “God rescues” and allows the church to forget how common a name it was. “Jesus” is almost a white man’s name whereas Yeshua sounds a bit Semitic, maybe Jewish or even Arabic (Arabs are also Semites). If I had to say Yeshua ha- Mashiach instead of Jesus Christ it would remind me of the origins of my faith in the angry, racist, arrogant, faithful, suffering, believing people of Israel and the ministry of Yeshua of Nazareth amongst them; how in them he tackles my anger, racism, arrogance, faithfulness, suffering and belief. When I think of the Holy Name I must not put myself on his side, as if he belonged to me, but recognise in his own people’s rejection, my own rejection of him, my own readiness to crucify. Only then can he rescue me from my sin.
Paul, if indeed he’s the author of the letter to Colossae, uses “circumcision” as a metaphor for “putting off the flesh”, that is, getting rid of the closed, self-centred identity that shuts me off from God and my neighbour in order to put on the identity of the risen Christ. My own experience is that this transformation doesn’t happen overnight, in fact, it may never be fully complete in this life; but it is the goal of faith.
Yeshua ha-Mashiach is rescuing me from evil and making me a child of God: that’s my confession of faith at the year’s beginning.