Sunday, 2 January 2022

‘Will you acknowledge Christ’s
authority … by defending the weak,
and by seeking peace and justice?’

The Naming and Circumcision of Jesus … a stained glass window in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Sunday 2 January 2022 the Second Sunday of Christmas (Christmas 2):

9.30: The Parish Eucharist, Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton

11.30: Morning Prayer, Saint Brendan’s Church, Tarbert

The Readings: Numbers 6: 22-27; Psalm 8; Galatians 4: 4-7; Luke 2: 15-21.

A priest’s hands raised in blessing on a Holocaust memorial in Berlin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

May I speak to you in the name of God, + Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

New Year’s Day in the calendar of the Church is known as ‘the Naming and Circumcision of Jesus.’ It is a celebration or festival that marks three events: firstly, the naming of the infant; secondly, the sign of the covenant between God and Abraham ‘and his children for ever,’ seen in Christ keeping the Law; and thirdly, traditionally the first shedding of the Christ’s blood.

The most significant of these events in the Gospels is the name itself, which means ‘Yahweh saves’ and so is linked to the question asked by Moses of God: ‘What is your name?’ ‘I am who I am,’ was the reply, thus the significance of Christ’s words: ‘Before Abraham was, I am,’ or the ‘I AM’ sayings in the Fourth Gospel.

In this morning’s Gospel reading (Luke 2: 15-21), Saint Luke recalls the Circumcision and Naming of Christ in a short, terse summary account in one, single verse: ‘After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb’ (Luke 2: 21).

Saint Luke has told us of Joseph and Mary’s visit to Bethlehem, and of the birth of Jesus. This reading recalls the visit of the Shepherds, who are the first visitors to the new-born child, symbolising that Christ is our shepherd.

Before Christ was conceived, an angel has said ‘you will name him Jesus’ (Luke 1: 31). His name means God saves. The Hebrew and Aramaic forms of Jesus are similar to the words meaning ‘he will save.’

This feast is a reminder that the Christ Child is born into a family of faith. He is truly God and truly human, and in his humanity he is also born a Jew, into a faithful and observant Jewish family.

In a prayer that has been used at circumcisions since at least the 14th century, God is asked to ‘sustain this child, and let him be known in the house of Israel as … As he has entered into the Covenant of Abraham, so may he enter into the study of Torah, the blessing of marriage, and the practice of goodness.’

The prayer continues: ‘May he who blessed our fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, bless this child who has been circumcised, and grant him a perfect healing. May his parents rear him to have a heart receptive to Torah, to learn and to teach, to keep and to observe your laws.’

The service concludes with the priestly blessing we heard as part of our first reading (Numbers 6: 23-26):

The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;
the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.

The festival of the Naming and Circumcision of Jesus provides a much-needed opportunity to challenge anti-Semitism in the world today, remembering that Christ was born into a practicing, pious Jewish family, and that this month (January 2022) also marks the 77th anniversary of the liberation of the concentration camps, including Auschwitz and Birkenau.

The beginning of a New Year is a good time to look back and to look forward with eyes of faith in company with one another and with God. The beginning of redemption, the beginning of the New Covenant, the beginning of the New Year … as TS Eliot opens and closes ‘East Coker’:

In my beginning is my end
… In my end is my beginning


At the beginning of the New Year, it is good to be reminded of the promises at our baptism, and that we have been incorporated into the Body of Christ, which is the Church. A good example of how this is done at the beginning of the year is the Methodist Covenant Service and the Methodist Covenant Prayer, which we are using as part our intercessions this morning.

So, let us renew our Baptismal vows and promises this morning. We turn to page 399 in the Book of Common Prayer:

Do you renew and affirm the promises made when you were baptised?
I do.

Do you turn in faith to Christ?
I do.

Do you then renounce all evil?
I do, by God’s help.

Will you obey and serve Christ?
I will, by God’s help.

Do you believe and trust in God the Father, creator of heaven and earth?
I believe and trust in him.

Do you believe and trust in his Son Jesus Christ, who redeemed the world?
I believe and trust in him.

Do you believe and trust in the Holy Spirit who gives life to the people of God?
I believe and trust in him.

This is the faith of the Church.
This is our faith.
We believe and trust in one God,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.


Those who are baptised are called to worship and serve God.

Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers?
With the help of God, I will.

Will you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?
With the help of God, I will.

Will you proclaim by word and example the good news of God in Christ?
With the help of God, I will.

Will you seek and serve Christ in all people, loving your neighbour as yourself?
With the help of God, I will.

Will you acknowledge Christ’s authority over human society, by prayer for the world and its leaders, by defending the weak, and by seeking peace and justice?
With the help of God, I will.

Let us pray.

Almighty God,
you have given us the will to do all these things:
Give us the courage and strength to achieve them
to the honour and glory of your name,
and the good of your Church and people;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

May Christ dwell in your hearts through faith,
that you may be rooted and grounded in love
and bring forth the fruit of the Spirit. Amen.

The Nativity scene and the adoration of the shepherds on the triptych in Lady Chapel in Lichfield Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford / Lichfield Gazette)

Luke 2: 15-21 (NRSVA):

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.’ 16 So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. 17 When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

21 After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

A priest’s hands raised in blessing on a gravestone in the Jewish Cemetery in the Lido of Venice (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Liturgical colour: White

The Penitential Kyries (Christmas):

Lord God, mighty God,
you are the creator of the world.

Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Lord Jesus, Son of God and Son of Mary,
you are the Prince of Peace.

Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

Holy Spirit,
by your power the Word was made flesh
and came to dwell among us.

Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

The Collect of the Day:

Almighty God,
whose blessed Son was circumcised
in obedience to the law for our sake
and given the Name that declares your saving love:
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 is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Introduction to the Peace:

Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given,
and his name shall be called the Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9: 6)

Preface:

You have given Jesus Christ your only Son
to be born of the Virgin Mary,
and through him you have given us power
to become the children of God:

The Post Communion Prayer:

Eternal God,
whose incarnate Son was given the name of Saviour:
grant that we who have shared in this sacrament of our salvation
may live out our years
in the power of the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.

Blessing:

The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;
the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace:

The railway tracks at Auschwitz-Birkenau … January 2022 marks the 77th anniversary of the liberation of the concentration camps, and the Circumcision and Naming of Christ is a moment to challenge antisemitism (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Hymns:

166, Joy to the world, the Lord is come! (CD 10)
133, Long ago, prophets knew (CD 8)
152, Come and join the celebration (CD 9)



Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

Material from the Book of Common Prayer is copyright © 2004, Representative Body of the Church of Ireland.

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