Cruce Tectum

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

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

The Epiphany of Our Lord

The Epiphany of Our Lord
January 6, 2009
Text: Matthew 2:1-12

Epiphany, the festival for which this congregation was named, a word meaning “revelation” or “manifestation.” The Festival of Epiphany is the end of the Christmas Season and the beginning of the Season of Epiphany, a season for meditating upon the revelation or manifestation of Jesus Christ as God in human flesh, as our Savior, Messiah not only of the Jews but also of the Gentiles. And so this Epiphany Season we will hear about the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River and the appearance of all three Persons of the Holy Trinity, Jesus turning water into wine, His miraculous healings and casting out of demons, the miraculous catch of fish coupled with the calling of the apostles to catch men, and the Transfiguration of our Lord, all of which serve as evidence that this man, Jesus of Nazareth, is God incarnate. This evening we commemorate the visit of the Magi, the wise men from the East, who followed the star to find the One born King of the Jews.

Isn’t it amazing, these Magi travel all this way because of an obscure Hebrew Scripture and a strange star just to see a little boy? The Magi were probably from Babylon or Persia, modern-day Iraq and Iran, and they were undoubtedly familiar with the Hebrew Scriptures because of the Jews who had lived among them during the great Babylonian exile. The prophet Daniel and his colleagues, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were all Magi. We don’t know the number of the Magi who came to see Jesus. Many people think there were three of them because of the three gifts, but the Scriptures do not give us a number. Magi were learned men of the orient: astrologers, philosophers, advisers to kings, thus we call them the “wise men.” And these wise men, observing the heavens, as is their habit, behold a strange star, and they call to mind the words of Balaam in Numbers 24: “a star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel; it shall crush the forehead of Moab and break down all the sons of Sheth” (v. 17; ESV). This is a prophecy of Messiah. And so these wise men pack up and go. They come to the only conclusion wisdom allows them: Messiah has come to Israel. Let us go and see this great sight. Let us go and worship Him who is born King of the Jews!

Behold how these wise men seek Divine Wisdom enfleshed! It is this, and this alone, that truly indicates the wisdom of the wise men, that they seek the Wisdom of God who in mercy became a man, a little child, Jesus of Nazareth. They travel across the desert to behold Him, to worship Him, to bring Him gifts: Gold, the gift of royalty; frankincense, an incense offering to the God of Israel; and myrrh, a prophetic gift, in preparation for His burial. We see here that the real wisdom of the wise men is faith in the Son of God and Savior of the world. To be wise is to believe in Jesus Christ as your King, your God, and the Savior who lays down His life for your forgiveness, life, and salvation.

Naturally, they seek Him who is born King of the Jews in the Jewish capital of Jerusalem. And here in Jerusalem, we find a very different wisdom at work in Herod and in the chief priests and scribes, the wisdom of the world. This is a wisdom that sees Jesus as a threat, that fears Jesus, that does not seek Jesus to worship Him, but only to murder Him, and to snuff out the Word concerning Him. Upon hearing the news from the Magi that Messiah is born, Herod is troubled, and all Jerusalem with him (Matt. 2:3). Herod believes the Messiah presents a threat to his royal throne, and Jerusalem knows that tyrannous Herod will perpetrate horrendous violence to stamp out that threat. The chief priests and scribes know from the sacred Scriptures where Messiah is to be born, “In Bethlehem of Judea,” they say, “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’” (vv. 5-6). Yet the chief priests and scribes do not follow the Magi to Bethlehem to worship the Christ. Already the Jewish elite sees Jesus as a threat to the religious customs and political structure of temple and synagogue. It is a foreshadowing of the accusations they would make against Jesus throughout His life, which would finally lead to His arrest and crucifixion. And certainly the chief priests and scribes must also fear Herod, and they clearly fear Herod more than they fear God.

And so it is only the Magi who follow the star sent from God to the place where Jesus is, in a house, with Mary and Joseph, in the sleepy little town of Bethlehem. They come and they fall down before Him and worship Him and present their gifts to Him. Faith verses unbelief. Faith falls down before Jesus and confesses Him to be King, God, and Savior. Unbelief fears and avoids and deceives and murders.

Beloved members of Epiphany Lutheran Church: This evening Jesus is here, God in the flesh, God in Man made manifest, your King, your God, your Savior. You know that the wisdom of the world would have you turn away from Him in unbelief. You know that the wisdom of the world is to mock Jesus and His Word and His Christians. You know that the wisdom of the world is to fear Jesus as a threat. As insane as it may sound, the world fears the Prince of Peace as a threat to liberty, to religious freedom, to government, even to the safety of the citizens. Have you ever heard the ridiculous assertion that religion, and Christianity in particular, is the root cause of terrorism and hatred in the world? But the wisdom of the world is not always as explicit as that. The wisdom of the world would also convince you that you don’t have time for Jesus, you don’t have time to be in church, to fall down before the King and worship Him. The wisdom of the world would convince you that Jesus is a threat to your pleasure and happiness. He will call upon you to give up your favorite sins, to repent, which is quite true. The wisdom of the world would convince you that Jesus doesn’t want you to have any fun or enjoy anything, which is not at all true. The wisdom of the world will do anything to convince you not to seek this Jesus. And so you see the wisdom of the world for what it is: the devil’s lies!

Beloved in the Lord, this evening Jesus is here, God in the flesh, God in Man made manifest, your King, your God, your Savior. Faith falls down before Him in worship and gives its gifts, it is true. But more importantly, faith receives the gifts of the King, of God, of our Savior Jesus Christ. For while the Magi brought gifts to Jesus, the primary gift given that night was the gift of Jesus Christ to the Magi. It is the gift of a Savior. It is the gift of forgiveness through His blood. It is the gift of eternal life and salvation. And so tonight, here, in this place called Epiphany Lutheran Church, faith may very well fall down and worship and confess and give its gifts. But the more important thing is that faith here tonight receives the gifts of Christ. Faith falls down before this gift, this Savior, and receives all good from Him. Faith is true wisdom, because it receives the Wisdom of God made flesh. Faith believes the Scriptures concerning Him. Faith clings to Him alone. Faith receives the fruits of His cross, His true body pierced, His true blood shed, under bread and wine. Faith receives forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and salvation.

Epiphany is the festival of light, because it reveals clearly our Lord Jesus Christ as God in human flesh come to save us from our sins. Beloved in the Lord, bask in that Epiphany light. For here is your redemption. Here is your abiding peace. Here is your enduring joy. Divine Wisdom is here in the flesh. May we, in wisdom, receive Him and delight in His gifts. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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