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The Epiphany of Our Lord – Matthew 2:1-12

by pastorjuhl ~ January 6th, 2010

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

Saint Paul says in Second Corinthians: For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. The earthen vessels Paul writes about is clarified in tonight’s Epistle: by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets: that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel, of which I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of His power.

The earthen vessel of men writing under inspiration of the Holy Spirit drew the Magi to Bethlehem. The earthen vessel of Holy Scripture still draws man to the House of Bread that is Jesus Christ. How would the Magi know where to go had they not read God’s Word? It is one thing to read His Word. It is another to follow a star from their home to a faraway land to see whether the Word is true.

Many people consider themselves Christian. They own a Bible or two. They read sermonettes in the local newspaper. They buy and read Christian best-selling books. Nevertheless, when it comes to practicing their faith publicly with other Christians, they won’t make the journey to church to honor Jesus’ presence in the proclaimed Word. They believe, but in a private way. There are too many expectations when someone joins a church. The church wants your money, your time, and your consistent presence. It’s better to be in God’s House sometimes than all the time. You keep people guessing. After all, you have God’s Word. Isn’t that all you need?

Blessed Martin Luther disagrees. He says it is not enough that you have or know the Gospel. Rather it must be believed and grasped with the heart. Else we will not find Christ. Reading your Bible at home and praying every day is a salutary practice. Yet it is not good to be alone in practicing the Christian faith. There is much more of Christ’s gifts to be found in His House. This is why you invite people to come to Church. You want those who have not seen the Light to come to the Light and bask in His glow. As the prophet Isaiah writes in the Old Testament reading: The Gentiles shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising…. Then you shall see and become radiant, and your heart shall swell with joy; because the abundance of the sea shall be turned to you, the wealth of the Gentiles shall come to you.

Epiphany begins a mission unlike any other mission on earth. The Gentiles come to the Light of the world in order to follow Him as He makes Himself manifest to both Jew and Gentile. He does so as a 12-year-old boy in the temple, confounding the doctors of the Law. He does so at a wedding feast in Cana of Galilee. He does so on the mountain with Moses and Elijah standing on either side of him before the face of Peter, James, and John. Then from the mountaintop into the plain we go, walking to Jerusalem to see the King of Kings do His Kingly duty upon a cross and out of a tomb. Mission accomplished, we will see Him ascend into heaven only to return soon to judge the living and the dead.

You’ve guessed by now that God’s mission is to seek and save the lost. A man of the world considers the Light of the world dying on a cross as not a mission but a wives tale. Why would God’s Son do such a foolish thing as call the world to follow Him only to lay down His life? The answer to that question is the mystery Paul alludes to in the Epistle. The mystery of God is not something that we need Miss Marple or Sherlock Holmes to solve. A mystery according to Holy Scripture is something more believed than understood. Why does God want to save me, a poor, sinful being? He wants to save you because He created you, He loves you, and He wants you to be in fellowship with Him through Word and Sacrament now through eternity. Yes, it’s a mystery. The answer to that question is not something readily understood. It is an answer that is believed. God draws whom He wills, when He wills. The only answer we can give is “amen”. Gift received.

What a precious gift we have in the bright Morning Star, Jesus Christ. As we sang in the Chief Hymn: Lord, when You look on us in love,/ At once there falls from God above/ A ray of purest pleasure./ Your Word and Spirit, flesh and blood/ Refresh our souls with heav’nly food./ You are our dearest treasure!/ Let Your mercy/ Warm and cheer us!/ O draw near us!/ For You teach us/ God’s own love through You has reached us. Man’s search for love outside of one’s self finds its end in Jesus Christ. He loves you all the way to the cross through the tomb and into eternity. He is indeed your dearest treasure. Believe it for Jesus’ sake.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

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