Dear Colleagues and Friends,

The 1662 Book of Common Prayer at first glance seems to recognise only one Sunday after Christmas Day, while some later revisions recognise that two should be specifically provided for. As we will be aware there are “twelve days of Christmas” before the season of Epiphany begins, and the compilers of the 1662 Prayer Book and of the sixteenth century English Prayer Books that preceded it were well aware that sometimes two Sundays fell within that eleven day period after the first day, Christmas Day itself. The solution to what may seem to present a problem lies in the rubric following the Propers for the Feast of the Circumcision of Christ (1st January): "The same Collect, Epistle, and Gospel shall serve for every day after unto the Epiphany.”  By this it was clearly intended that any second Sunday after Christmas, which would have to fall between New Year’s Day and the Feast of the Epiphany, should use for the Eucharist the same Collect, Epistle and Gospel that are prescribed for the Feast of the Circumcision itself. In general this practice has for many years fallen into disuse, as shown by later Prayer Books such as the 1928 US and Proposed English Prayer Books, which provide separate Propers for the Second Sunday after Christmas. (As we may be aware, more recent practice still has often been to celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany itself on the second Sunday after Christmas instead of on the 6th January.)

While I don’t pass any judgment on those changes and revisions I think it is worth noting that the compilers of the 1662 Book and the Books that preceded it were making a very important point, as recognised by the 1962 Canadian Prayer Book. The Feast of the Circumcision of Christ was being pointed to as indicating an event of fundamental importance that should be given great attention, by the reservation to its theme of even any Sunday of Christmas that followed the actual day (New Year’s Day) of the Feast.

This year, in which the Second Sunday after Christmas (2nd January) immediately follows the calendar day (1st January) for the Feast of the Circumcision of Christ, provides an excellent opportunity to put into effect agreement with this recognition embodied in the 1662 and 1962 (Canadian) Prayer Books.

The Collect for the Circumcision of Christ (and for the Second Sunday after Christmas) is 

Almighty God, who madest thy blessed Son to be circumcised, and obedient to the law for man; Grant us the true circumcision of the Spirit; that, our hearts, and all our members, being mortified from all worldly and carnal lusts, we may in all things obey thy blessed will; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The circumcision of males was important in its indication that the covenant between God and His people, the people of Israel, was being acknowledged and continued into succeeding generations. If an uncircumcised Gentile male (of any age) wished formally to become Jewish he too would need to be circumcised. The sign of the circumcision of Jesus confirms to us two indelible truths: first, that when the eternally-begotten of the Father took upon himself humanity, he did so in its male form. Secondly, that he was “obedient to the law for man”: he was by the act of circumcision brought into the Jewish covenant just like other Jewish male babies and made subject to the law of God that this sign indicated. It was the purpose of the Father that the humanity Jesus was given to live was Jewish humanity. It is part of Christian doctrine that he alone lived a life that was fully obedient to the law that had been revealed to and bestowed upon the Jewish people. 

To whatever extent Scripture records that the Jewish people departed from the obedience which is their calling, no Christian can rightly ignore the fact that the one Jew Jesus Christ completely lived and completely gave His life in perfect obedience to the calling of the Jewish covenant, to the benefit of all nations of mankind.

Rightly therefore do we as Christians, whether Gentile or Jew, pray that God may “grant us the true circumcision of the Spirit; that, our hearts, and all our members, being mortified from all worldly and carnal lusts, we may in all things obey” the blessed will of God; “through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord”. There can be no “New Year’s resolution” that exceeds such a prayer. We should also note that the “true circumcision of the Spirit” for which we pray means spiritual and not physical “circumcision”, a “conversion therapy” (if you will) to be applied by almighty God to every baptised person, male or female.

For directions about the services this Sunday the 2nd January 2022, the 2nd Sunday after Christmas, at which we shall honour the Circumcision of Christ, please see the website . We shall be following the first Sunday of the month pattern, and Mr. Peter will be addressing us.

In faith in the holy Name of our Lord Jesus, who will continue to provide guidance to us all.

+ Nicholas