Today is the Feast of the Naming and Circumcision of Jesus

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. (Galatians 4:4-5)

Jesus was Jewish. Jesus belonged somewhere, to a particular time and place and people. He inherited the traditions and desires of his mother’s people. He was Jewish.

It is hard to imagine this, since each generation and people since Jesus have made every attempt to interpret him into their own cultures and stories, giving back his foreskin so that they do not have to contend with the fact that Jesus belonged to the Jews first before he belonged to anyone else, if indeed belonging is the correct description.

The fact that Jesus underwent naming and circumcision reminds me that there is more to Jesus, as the Son of God, than his own self-understanding, teaching, or work. He is the Son of God because-in part-he belongs to this culture with these practices; culture and practice he did not choose nor was he aware. It is only by submitting to this culture that Jesus is able to gain an understanding of the true God, the God of Israel, and his relation to him, as a prophet, a messenger, a propitiation for sins and as a revelation. None of these roles for Jesus would make sense had Jesus not gained a deeply Jewish understanding of God.

Culture as much as creed determines how one knows God. Today, Jesus reminds me of this fact. May I never be quick to throw out the unique culture created by the Church, the people of Jesus, because I think that its strange times and seasons, rules and morality, rites and rituals can help me see God rightly far more than my own oft-irrational and self-serving mind.

Readings

Numbers 6:22-27
Psalm 8
Galatians 4:4-7
Philippians 2:5-11
Luke 2:15-21

Almighty God,
whose blessed Son was circumcised
in obedience to the law for our sake
and given the Name that is above every name:
give us grace faithfully to bear his Name,
to worship him in the freedom of the Spirit
and to proclaim him as the Saviour of the world;
who liveth and reigneth with thee,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

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