Come to the Table

Here’s something new for 2016: I want to write a devotional post each week to help people prepare to come to the Table for the Breaking of Bread. These aren’t going to be theological treatises on the sacrament, but rather Biblical devotions you can read on a Saturday evening or early on a Lord’s Day morning. It’s all too easy not to turn our attention to the Breaking of Bread until the pastor calls us to examine ourselves in the moments immediately before coming to the Table, and yet the Breaking of Bread isn’t a momentary interruption of our Lord’s Day morning service – it’s the very purpose of our gathering together as one body and everything else in the Breaking of Bread service flows into or out from the Table. So it’s good to prepare ourselves for the sacrament before we come to church.

So, without further ado, here’s our first installment.

Back to the Manger

By the time eight days have rolled around after Christmas, we’ve moved on to the next thing. The quietness of the carols, choristers and candles of Christmas have given way to the noise of the fireworks, crowds, parties, and sales of the New Year. Yet the eighth day after Christmas isn’t about moving on to something new in the church calendar. For the Christian church, as for Mary and Joseph the eighth day is all about that baby who was born in Bethlehem.

Luke 2:21 tells us about that eighth day: ‘And when eight days were completed for the circumcision of the Child, His name was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb.’ A new baby tends to be the focus of a lot of attention in the days just after being born, but this eighth day was even more focused on the baby than usual, for this was the day of his circumcision. On this eighth day the name of Jesus – the LORD is Salvation – was proclaimed in Bethlehem. On this day Immanuel – God with us – was presented to the covenant people of God and entered into the covenant on their behalf. This eighth day reminds us that the Lord Jesus Christ – God-in-the-flesh – came to live and obey perfectly for us in our place. This eighth day reminds us that He is all our righteousness and we stand complete in Him. The baby circumcised in Bethlehem –the child who was laid in a manger – is our salvation.

Forward to the Cross

And that eighth day reminds us that the baby who was born in the manger of Bethlehem is the God-Man who would shed his blood for us upon the Cross of Calvary. The Cross wasn’t the first place His blood was shed for us. Already on that eighth day He shed blood for us in His Circumcision.

Circumcision was the sign of God’s Covenant in the Old Testament. Every boy among the people of God was circumcised on the eight day and it pointed to the blood-filled consequences of sin. But more than that, it pointed to how God would fulfil His promises and bring salvation through the Seed of Abraham (that’s Jesus!).

Like all Hebrew boys, Jesus was circumcised on the eighth day. Unlike all other Hebrew boys, though, Jesus wasn’t circumcised for His own benefit, but for ours. And His Circumcision pointed forward to that day when He would fulfil that covenant sign through His death on the Cross. At the Cross we see the salvation of the LORD in Jesus, crucified for us. At the Cross His blood was shed as a sacrifice to save us from the wrath of God. At the Cross, He saves us by ‘putting off the sins of [our] flesh’ (Col. 2:11). United to Him, His circumcision is ours. United to Him, His death is ours. United to Him in His sufferings for us, He has put off all our sins.

His blood was shed for us on that eighth day. And that blood-shedding would be fulfilled at the Cross. Yet, still today He gives us His shed blood, the blood of the New Covenant shed for many for the remission of sins. Once and for all His blood has been shed, yet that blood shall never lose its power.

The Eighth Day

The eight day – the day after the Sabbath – is the day of the Resurrection. So, we gather around the Lord’s Table on the eighth day. The shedding of His blood and His rising again from the dead go together. The Risen Lord is the Crucified Christ, and the Man of Sorrows is the One who sits upon the Father’s Throne. On the eighth day the name of Jesus was proclaimed. And still now on the eighth day we proclaim and praise His name, the name of the Incarnate God who shed His Blood for us and rose again from the dead.

As you come to Christ’s Table this Lord’s Day, turn your eyes away from the fireworks and parties, the resolutions and the goals of the New Year, and like Mary and Joseph turn your eyes to Jesus, the One whose very name proclaims to us that the LORD is Salvation. Turn your eyes to the Baby of Bethlehem, the Incarnate God who shed His blood for you for the forgiveness of sins. Turn your eyes to the One who entered into the Old Covenant on your behalf and fulfilled it and who now freely gives you His blood of the New Covenant to drink. Turn your eyes to the Lord of the eighth day, the living Christ who died and rose again for us and for our salvation. This is He whom you meet at the Table.

A Prayer to Pray:

Almighty God, who madest thy blessed Son to be circumcised, and obedient to the law for man: Grant to us the true circumcision of the Spirit; that, our hearts, and all our members, being mortified from all worldly and carnal lusts, we may in all things obey thy blessed will; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
(The Collect for the Circumcision of Christ)