Word Magazine January 2000 Page 22



By Very Rev. Stephen Rogers

Perhaps no day in our lifetimes will have more hoopla attached to it than the recent passage into the “new millennium” on this past New Year’s Day. January 1, 2000, was heralded by many as the dawn of a new age — some envisioning a golden age for mankind. Others saw it as the beginning of a dark age. From unbridled enthusiasm to apocalyptic fear, January 1 ran the spectrum of emotion in the hearts of many. Whatever our predictions, we all marked the entry into the new year as an important time of passage in our lives. Indeed, every New Year’s Day is a time of reflection and resolution —a time of regret, a time of rejoicing.

In the life of the Church also, January 1 marks a time of passage — the end of something old and the beginning of something new. On January 1, the Church celebrates the Feast of the Circumcision of the Lord, the day in which the son of Mary and Joseph is presented for the fulfillment of the rite central to God’s covenant with the people of Israel. In Vespers of the evening before the feast, we read from Genesis (17:1-7, 9-14): “Every man child among you shall be circumcised . . . my covenant shall be in your flesh as an everlasting covenant.” In keeping with that command, the Gospel of the Feast reports, “When eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, His name was called Jesus” (Luke 2:2 1).

We must stop for a moment to remember who this Child called Jesus is. At his circumcision, we are confronted once again with the enormity of God’s love and his sacrifice for us. This is God in the flesh being circumcised. This is God who made the Old Covenant with man, submitting to that covenant as man. This is He who established the Old Covenant with man, now fulfilling it so that a New Covenant might be established. This Jesus submits to the Old Covenant circumcision to establish a New Covenant, “In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh” (Col. 2:8-12, epistle of the feast).

The circumcision of the flesh is replaced with the circumcision of the heart. The blood of circumcision will be replaced by the blood of the Cross. The new covenant of God’s mercy and grace has manifested itself on this the first day of the year in this “child called Jesus.”

God, in his love and mercy for us, became one of us, submitting himself to all we were submitted to, that He might save us.

“Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself shared in the same, that through death, He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. . . Therefore in all things He had to be like His brethren that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who were tempted” (Heb.2:14-15, 17-18).

On this day of the Feast of the Circumcision, we celebrate the close of the “old” year and the beginning of the “new.” God has become one of us, “like us in all respects save sin,” so that we may become like Him. The Old Covenant is fulfilled, the New Covenant is ushered in. The old man of the flesh dies and the new man of the spirit is born. Today God submits himself to the Law that we might be freed from it.

Is there any greater cause for celebration than this? Have we forgotten this celebration in the midst of our confetti and streamers and football games and champagne toasts?

In Jeremiah, God promises:

“Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant . . . I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts, I will be their God and they will be My people . . . I will be merciful to their unrighteousness and their sins and lawless deeds I will remember no more.”

The day of that new covenant has come; the day of mercy has arrived. Today God fulfills the law of the flesh and institutes the law of the spirit. Today the Church cries, “out with the old man and in with the new!”

As we contemplate what Christ has done for us, what He has submitted Himself to on our behalf, let us rejoice in his mercy and goodness.

Happy New Year, indeed!