Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, January 06, 2008

The Epiphany of Our Lord

The Epiphany of Our Lord (A)
January 6, 2008
Text: Matt. 2:1-12

In the beginning, the earth was formless and void, and there was no light. Out of the darkness, out of nothing, God spoke His Word and called forth the light. Before there was a sun, before there was a moon and stars, there was light, created and sustained by the Word who was in the beginning with God and who was God (John 1:1-3).

If there is to be light, God must call it forth. The same God who called forth light by His eternal Word in creation has sent that eternal Word into the flesh to be the Light of the world. It is this Light, the Light of our Lord Jesus Christ, to which the light of the star testifies. The wise men follow the light of the star in search of the Light of the world. The wise men were “learned men and scientists of their day, who devoted themselves to the study of nature, medicine, mathematics, physics, astronomy, and the like.”[1] They were men of letters, philosophers, seekers and lovers of the collective wisdom of the world. They very well may have been Persian magi in the tradition of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. If that is the case, the teaching of the great prophet Daniel and his compatriots concerning the Messiah would have been passed down through the generations of Persian magi to the very wise men in our text. In any case, these wise men knew the Hebrew Scriptures. They knew the oracle of Balaam, recorded by Moses in the Book of Numbers: “a star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel” (24:17; ESV). Thus they made their pilgrimage to Jerusalem by the light of that star. “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him” (Matt. 2:2).

If there is to be light, God must call it forth. The Holy Spirit caused the light of the Scriptures to shine on the hearts of the wise men, that they might arise and seek the Light of the Father, the Light of the world, the King of the Jews and Savior of the nations, Jesus Christ. The same God who first called forth light by His Word in creation… the same God who sent the Light of the world in the flesh to be born of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem… the same God who testified to that Light by establishing the light of the star in the heavens… that God had enlightened these Gentile wise men with the light of faith. That’s the only way it happens. If there is to be light, God must call it forth.

Epiphany is the season of light. Epiphany means manifestation or revelation. Light reveals what has been hidden in darkness. That which is hidden is made manifest in the light. Jesus Christ is the Light of the world. Our text reveals Jesus as the Savior and King not only of the Jews, but of the Gentiles as well. He is a Light to lighten the Gentiles and the glory of His people Israel. “In him was life, and that life was the light of men” (John 1:4). But not all men bask in that divine Light. Upon hearing of the birth of this new King of the Jews, “Herod… was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him” (Matt. 2:3). The Light of Jesus Christ is a threat. It is a threat because it overthrows the darkness. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5). Herod did not want the Light. It might make demands on him. It might make a claim on his kingdom. It might make a claim on his heart. Better that the light be snuffed out than that his kingdom be challenged. Likewise, Jerusalem did not want trouble. Sure, they wanted to be free of the tyranny of the Romans, but a new King means a revolution, and a revolution means blood. What if the revolution fails? What if the Light is deceiving? We’ll wait and see what happens, but we will not follow the wise men in search of that Light.

The chief priests and scribes know where the Child is to be born. “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: ‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel” (Matt. 2:5-6). But they, likewise, are unwilling to follow. They might be seen as traitors to Herod. They might have to pay with their lives. The Light requires too much. Besides, it is a threat to the old religion. It is comfortable in this system where one is saved by giving lip service to a Messiah who may come someday and by following the prescribed regulations of the Torah. We are not ready for the fulfillment of these promises.

These are the responses of natural man. These are the responses of darkness. “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. 2:14). It is a great miracle when God calls forth the light of faith in a person. It is a great miracle when the Holy Spirit casts the light of the Gospel on a hard heart of stone and melts it into a heart of flesh. But it is also a great mystery that not all want to bask in that Light, the Light of Jesus Christ, because Jesus demands the whole of a person, and that is an offense. When the Light that is Jesus Christ takes possession of you, He takes possession of you as a whole. Jesus is not just one part of your life, not even the most important part of your life. He is your life. You have no life outside of Him. Outside of Him you are nothing but darkness. But you have been called into the Light. You are light in the Lord. Yet you cannot serve two masters. You cannot serve both darkness and light. You cannot serve God and mammon. You cannot serve Christ and your own sinful flesh. Your pet idols, whether they be family or friends, money or sex, food or your job, even though these things be good gifts of God, they are not your gods. Your God is in the flesh. He is Jesus. “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matt. 10:37-39).

Who, then, can be saved? We are all darkness. The demands are too much. Beloved, you will never find light or salvation by looking within yourself. Repent. If there is to be light, God must call it forth. He must call you to repentance for your idolatry. He must call you to faith. He must call you to be heirs of His Kingdom. And the good news is, He has called forth His Light, Jesus Christ, to die for your sinful idolatry, to wipe out your sins on the cross, to pay the penalty for you. And He has called you to faith in this same Jesus Christ by His Holy Spirit working in the Word and Sacraments. He has had mercy upon you. He has immersed you in His grace. He has united you to the death and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ in Baptism. You are clean and new. All your sins have been forgiven. For Christ has died, and Christ is risen. He is the Light of the world. The Lord is your Light and your Salvation. Whom shall you fear? For I am convinced that “neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation” will be able to separate you from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:38-39). I am convinced that He who began this good work in you will bring it to completion in the Day of Jesus Christ. I am convinced that He who called you by the Gospel and enlightened you with His gifts will also sanctify you and keep you in the one true faith until the return of our Lord.

If there is to be light, God must call it forth. The wise men came to the Light of Jesus Christ. They found Him in a house in Bethlehem with His mother Mary. They worshiped Him. They presented Him with gifts: gold, acknowledging Jesus as King of the Jews and the Gentiles; frankincense, an offering used in the temple, confessing Jesus to be the God of the universe; and myrrh, a burial ointment, confessing Jesus’ sin-atoning death for the life of the world. Forsake your idols. Forsake your comfortable lives. Lose your life in this world that you might find it for eternity. Follow the wise men to Jesus, even if it means Herod kills you for it. Follow the wise men and worship God in the flesh. Present your gifts of faith, hope, and love to Him. Believe in Him, for He is your God, your Light, your Savior. God has called forth that Light for you. He has called forth the light of faith in you. He has made you His own. He loves you. He has forgiven all your sins. “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you” (Is. 60:1). In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

[1] Adam Fahling, The Life of Christ (St. Louis: Concordia, 1936) pp. 106-07.

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