From Love Came Down
The Circumcision (Holy Name)
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. (Luke 2:21)
The day of the circumcision tells us that to follow Christ we must be in a manner dead to this world while we are in it; that we must not seek to do our own will or follow our own pleasure, if we would learn to love God now and be with God hereafter. If this seems a hard saying, let us ask the world what it has to promise. It will tell us, as on this day, that if we fix our hearts upon anything on Earth, it will very soon depart from us, or we shall depart from it and leave it behind. A consideration of the fleetness of our days which a new year brings to our minds, tells us that the time of our stay is so uncertain, and so short at the longest, that it really matters very little what we have and what we have not, what we may suffer or what we may enjoy, if only we may be admitted at last into the blessed Kingdom of God’s rest.
The gospel indeed calls us to mortification; but what is this? It only calls on us to give up that which will soon give us up if we do not; to give it up in order that we may obtain something infinitely better, to give up Earthly hopes and treasures for Heavenly, that we may not lose both. To be ever looking up as the faithful Abraham did, feeling ourselves but as strangers and pilgrims in a land that is not our own; that with a more free heart we may walk with God. Nature says, “I die daily”; the grave is being dug for me. Grace also says the same, “I die daily”; but adds, “I die that I may live”; for a mansion is being prepared for me which is above. The world will tell us on this day that neither riches, nor honor, nor friends, nor learning will make us one year younger, or delay our departure to that place from which there is no return. Does this sound melancholy? The gospel tells us on this day that we have no business with such desires and disappointments as the world brings, for we have been bound to renounce them long ago, that we may have our hearts and treasure elsewhere.
So far as we look for satisfaction in things temporal, another year passing over our heads must bring with it many melancholy reflections. But if any are steadfastly purposed to follow Christ with the aid of his Blessed Spirit, and in all things to deny their own will in order to be conformed to the will of God, to them every passing year may afford encouragement and satisfaction, as it brings nearer to an end that state in which they must die daily, in order that they may live eternally.
Such is the true circumcision of the spirit by which Christians become new creatures. All things are become new to them, and as they grow older in this world, there is a new world opening upon them, new heavens and a new Earth, in which righteousness dwells.
Every year that has borne us onward in our course as it goes by is indeed a call for more active exertion, for more steadfastly setting our face toward the Heavenly Jerusalem, to be more earnest and constant than ever in the duties of religion; to forget the things that are behind, and to press forward more eagerly to that which is before: the prize of the high calling in Christ Jesus.