How the Eighth Day of Christmas Helps Us Start the New Year
Today is the 1st of January, which means it's the 8th Day of Christmas. And on the 8th Day of Christmas, we celebrate what happened on the 8th day after Jesus' birth — His circumcision and naming. As we read in Luke 2:21, '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.'
Since 1752, the 1st January has also been New Year's Day in this country. (Before that, we celebrated the New Year on 25th March - the Feast of the Annunciation.) It's probably fair to say that the Feast of the Circumcision and Naming of Jesus gets a bit overshadowed by the New Year, but on this New Year's Day, I'd like to suggest that today's feast helps us start the New Year in thoroughly Christian way.
New Year's resolutions are all around us. Many of them can be good things. Many of them get broken quite quickly. But today's Feast of the Circumcision and Naming of Jesus can help redeem and reorient our New Year's Resolutions, and guard us from simply dressing up a secular way of thinking about the New Year in Christian clothes that don't really fit. Looking towards the year ahead through the lenses of the circumcision and name of Jesus helps us look forward (and even plan and resolve) in a thoroughly Christian way indeed.
We might be tempted to overlook the circumcision of Jesus as simply a cultural thing and pass over it without dwelling on its significance. However, Colossians 2:11 tells us that 'In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ.' We who trust in Jesus have been circumcised in His circumcision, and so, we can truly say that He was circumcised for us and for our salvation. On that 8th Day, the Lord Jesus shed His blood for us for the very first time.
So Christ's circumcision for us points us to His saving work for us. But it's also a call to us to live in light of that saving work. Circumcision is a cutting off. And Colossians connects it to 'putting off the body of the sins of the flesh.' The traditional prayer for today's Feast puts it like this:
who madest Thy blessed Son to be circumcised,
and obedient to the law for man:
Grant 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 holy will;
through the same Thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord.
So in giving thanks today for the circumcision of Christ, we're also led to pray for the circumcision of our own hearts. Today's Feast points us to a very good place to begin a New Year — in repentance, casting off the sins of the year gone by, and with the desire for holy obedience in the year ahead.
But not only was our Lord circumcised on the 8th Day, but He was also given the name Jesus - the name that points to Him as the Saviour from sin (Matthew 1:21). Not only does this day call us to repent of our sins and put to death our sinful desires, but it also points our eyes to the only One who can save us from our sins. This is not a day merely to resolve to do better and try harder. Our resolutions shouldn't be to sort ourselves out and fix our own sins; our resolution should be to fix our eyes upon the only Saviour from sin, to turn from our sins to Him, and to bring our sinful desires to Him to be cut off in His cutting off.
For the circumcision of Christ on the 8th Day points us forward to its ultimate fulfilment in His cutting off from the land of the living all those years later when He was crucified and died for our sins. At the Cross we see the salvation of the LORD in Jesus, crucified for us. At the Cross, His blood was shed a final time, as a sacrifice to save us. At the Cross He saves us by putting off the sins of our flesh.
Those who trust in Jesus are united to Jesus. And united to Him, His circumcision is our circumcision. United to Him, His death is our death.
Don't fix your eyes on empty promises for the year ahead. The Scripture doesn't say anywhere that this will be a wonderful year or a year of 'breakthrough'. (Just think how unfounded promises like that worked out last year!) Don't found this new year on resolutions of what you can do for yourself. Fix your eyes instead on the circumcision and name of Jesus - His shedding His blood and cutting off for you and the promise that He will save His people from their sins.
Let's let the circumcision and name of Jesus redeem and reorient our New Year's resolutions. Let's not merely come up with some good plans or intentions focussed on ourselves or to be accomplished by ourselves (with a bit of divine help). Let's instead resolve to fix our eyes on our Saviour and run to Him day by day.
P.S. Here's a wonderful hymn to start the New Year rejoicing in the name of Jesus.