The Octave Day of Christmas is quite exciting. Since ancient times it has been observed as both the Solemnity of the Mother of God and the Circumcision of Jesus.
In the first observance, we recognize that the baby born in Bethlehem is the eternal God. The Creator of everything was carried in Mary’s womb. At the Third Ecumenical Council in 431, it was recognized that to reject the term Theotokos for Mary is to reject the divinity of Christ. However, this feast pre-dates the Third Council in the East and was in celebrate in at least parts of the Western Church at that time.
It is also the day that Jesus is presented to the world. It is the day the word of the angel is fulfilled that His name would be called Jesus. It is the day the name that is above every name is first proclaimed.
It wasn’t a particularly unusual name at the time. It was the same name as Israel’s leader who succeeded Moses and brought them into the promised land. (In one case, we use a rough transliteration of the Hebrew form of the name, Joshua, and in the other a transliteration of the Greek, Jesus.) There would have been a number of Jewish boys at the time named Yeshua.
In His humanity, Jesus was an ordinary boy with an ordinary name from an ordinary town. While the name Yeshua – YHWH is salvation – was certainly intended to let us know He was here to save us, it is a reminder that He emptied Himself of all of His glory to become one of us. It also reminds us that every ordinary person is known and loved by God.
This common name became the name – the only name – by which we can be saved. It is the name we call upon. It is the name in which we are to do everything. “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” (Colossians 3:17)
In His circumcision, Jesus – even without His own willful act – became part of the covenant people. His parents presented Him. God is family-oriented. His covenant with Abraham was family-oriented. Membership in God’s family was based on membership with the human family. There are those that think that God is no longer family-oriented in the new covenant, that He is less inclusive and only recognizes conscious individual decision. But in His own circumcision, Jesus re-affirms that God is still a family God. In the great mystery of the Incarnation, and in the great plan of salvation, God the Son is brought into the family of God by His earthly parents.
Likewise, we are brought into the family of God by our parents, by the circumcision made without hands (Colossians 2:11-12). When we have the capacity, we choose whether to stay and receive our inheritance. And as with the old Israel, those born outside the people of God have the opportunity to be the first generation in their family to choose God’s family. That is why evangelism is important. But if we lose sight of God’s family plan, we lose sight of the full scope of our salvation.