The Naming and Circumcision of Jesus

Eight days after Jesus was born he was circumcised in accordance with Jewish Law (Leviticus 12:3), and was given his Name – the Name that is above every Name (Philippians 2:9).  And both Joseph and Mary knew what that Name was to be.  Months before Joseph had been told by an angel, “…you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (NRSV, Matthew 1:21).  And the angel Gabriel had told Mary, “…you will name him Jesus” (NRSV, Luke 1:31).

The account of Jesus’ circumcision may be compared with that of John the Baptist.  He was also circumcised on the eighth day and given his name (Luke 1:59–64).  It was an occasion of rejoicing, in the presence of friends and neighbours.  In the case of Jesus, however, he was born a stranger, far from home and friends and there would have been no similar celebration. (1)

But every year on January 1st, the Church celebrates the Naming and Circumcision of Jesus.  In the Book of Common Prayer it is called the Circumcision of Our Lord.  It is a joyful Festival, for the Name Jesus means Saviour and it reminds us that he came to save us from our sins and bring us to God to be with him for ever.  The liturgical colour is white.

Whenever the Name of Jesus is said or sung, we should remember to bow our head.  We do this as an act of love and devotion to Our Blessed Lord.  Indeed, this is ordered by one of the Canons or Laws of the Church of England: “All persons present in the time of divine service shall…give due reverence to the name of the Lord Jesus …” (2)

Common Worship resources for this Festival are available here on pages 37–41.


1. Ward, B. (1915) The holy Gospel according to St Luke, London: Catholic Truth Society.

2. © The Archbishops’ Council (2000) The Canons of the Church of England, 6th edition.  B9 Of reverence and attention to be used in the time of divine service.  Available from: (Accessed 09 December 2011) (Internet).

Short talk

A short talk entitled the Holy Name of Jesus is available in this section of the Holy Faith website.