Christians can enter new year with confidence

What do you think? New Year’s Day is best spent:

a) Lounging

b) Watching college football on TV

c) Gathering with family and friends

d) Making resolutions

If you’re like most, you probably don’t connect New Year’s Day with going to church, or a Christian festival.

Yet for centuries, people who trust in Christ to save us from hell have connected Dec. 25, the traditional (but unprovable) date for Jesus’s birth in Bethlehem, with Jan. 1.

It works this way:

Through Moses, God commanded all Jewish boys to be circumcised on the eighth day, one week after their birth (Leviticus 12:1).

If Jesus was born on Dec. 25-- again, we can’t say for sure, though it’s plausible-- Jesus was circumcised on Jan. 1.

The Bible adds, “On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise him, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he had been conceived” (Luke 2:21).

Why “Jesus”?

The Lord’s angel had told Joseph, the virgin Mary’s fiancé, “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).

Earlier, the angel Gabriel had also told Mary that her baby, God’s Son, must be named Jesus.

Jesus is Greek for the Hebrew name, “Y’shua,” meaning “the Lord-- he saves.”

Put it all together, and today, like every day, is a day we can best spend by thanking our maker for his mercy.

Why? He didn’t have to send us a Savior. But he did.

Likewise, Jesus didn’t have to get circumcised. He’s King of kings (Revelation 19:16).

Jesus could have spent the eighth day of his life lounging-- doing nothing.

Instead, the Bible says Jesus came into the world determined to do every- thing God required of us sinners, to make us holy before God (Hebrews 10:1–10).

Before he died for us, innocently, Jesus lived in our place, perfectly. That’s how, even if death awaits in 2011, we enter a new year with confidence.

We sing:

“Jesus! Name of mercy mild,

Given to the holy Child,

When the cup of human woe

First he tasted here below.”

“Jesus! Name of priceless worth

To the fallen sons of earth,

For the promise that it gave--

‘Jesus shall his people save.’”

Rev. Daniel A. Witte, pastor of Risen Savior Lutheran Church, can be reached at 747-5564. For more information, see Faith Matters is a regular feature of Saturday’s Herald, written by local clergy members.