While the official name of today was changed to Mary, Mother of God, and we also added the World Day of Peace. The gospel for today remains the gospel from the older title the Feast of the Circumcision.
The Jewish law held that on the eighth day each male child was to be circumcised, and on that day they were given their name. This commandment is given to Abraham in Genesis and reiterated in the Book of Leviticus. Our Christian practice of baptizing the child "as soon as possible after their brith" and beginning with the question, what name have you given this child?, is the reflection of the Old Covenant in the New.
Similarly, while our Jewish brothers and sisters keep the seventh day as the sabbath. Christians keep the eighth day. Yes, going all the way back into the writings of the early fathers of the Church, Sunday was described not as the first day, but the eighth day. The eight day represented the beginning of a new creation, the beginning of the Kingdom of God, seeing time not as human time (seven days), but God's time, the eighth day.
With the birth of Christ the universe was transformed. On the eighth day, he was named Jesus, as the angel had foretold. God had entered time and space and forever transformed it by his presence.
On this, the eighth day of Christmas, the first day of 2015 on our secular calendar, may we allow it to be an eighth day, a time of new beginning. In many English speaking churches today they will assured sing "Let there be peace on earth." This classic is correct in its final words "and let it begin with me."
Peace must begin each individual heart. It begins with
- a decision about where we will focus our attention, on the good or on the bad,
- a decision about how we will see the world and each other, as brothers and sisters, or competing camps.
- a decision about whether we will forgive or not.
We have the God given freedom to chose. And by those choices we define ourselves.
Perhaps like many New Years resolution this one may collapse rather quickly. But even then we can always start over. We are always free to choose to
let the peace of Christ rule in [our] hearts. (Col. 3:15)
Many people around me have said how they pray that 2015 will be better than 2014. We can guarantee that it is better by changing ourselves and allowing God to change us. The circumstances around us may be better or worse. But we can always chose to be better.