SERMON FOR THE EPIPHANY OF OUR LORD, 1-6-2018
Preached at Our Savior Lutheran Church, Whitefish Bay, WI
Rev. Michael C. Larson
The tragedy which happened in the Garden was really a coup d'état, a rebellion, an attempted overthrow by rebel man. Man was not content to be a mere creature, a royal and loyal subject of the King, so in league with Satan he rebelled. He rose up against the God of love. Man rebelled against Him who was the very author and source of his very life.
Man attempted to dethrone God and exalt himself, but in this coup, he could only fall, and thus death entered in. Now fallen man, turned in upon himself, was ruled by that false-king, that tyrant Satan, the ruler and prince of this evil age.
So God promised to send forth a son, born of a woman, to crush the serpent’s crown by taking into himself our rebellion and making peace by the blood of the cross.
The wise men knew of this promise, they heard of this king, and so they traveled thousands of miles by a star to worship him and to pay this king homage.
The wise men came from the East to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born King of the Jews.” How could Herod tolerate it? He was king. It was his province, his temple, his city, his people. This Jesus was a clear and present danger.
The most disturbing part of the Christmas story is the rage of Herod, sending his executioners storming through Bethlehem, slaying all the baby boys with swords, as they were violently pulled from their mother’s arms.
In our reading this past week Simeon had warned of something like this. Jesus, this little baby, would be the cause of the fall and rising of many. This child would be a source of offense. Either he is loved and worshipped, or he is hated and despised.
It’s easy to hate Herod. He is evil. He rises up against God, and wants nothing more than to crush him. He feels threatened and annoyed by this king. Herod enjoys his power. He’s having too much fun, eating, drinking, carousing, and fornicating. So, he turns his wrath and anger against this little child king.
Carl Jung, the influential psychiatrist-philosopher of the early 20th century introduced to us the idea of the shadow, or the unconscious dark side of the human person. Whether it’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde or Star Wars and the dark side, the idea is basically the same. There is an acknowledgement, a very uncomfortable one, that we are all capable of great evil.
Like Herod, we have a shadow, the old Adam, that is also threatened and annoyed by this King. Sinful man does not want to be ruled by a king, but clings to his sin, preferring hell to heaven. Herod is something of a picture of rebel man, even now, in this world.
The coup d’état, the rebellion, against the God of love, sadly rages on. The rebellion is still being fought by sinful man – rebel man wanting to dethrone the king – and reign supreme.
If Jesus is the king. It means we are not. He is the King. Jesus crashes our sinful party. That’s what Herod hated. Gossip, sexual immorality, our vain entertainment, our pet sins, our pride, our self-satisfaction, our complacency, our excuses and comfort with our sin – all of that is threatened. After all, at the birth of Jesus the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.
It’s easy to hate Herod. But Carl Jung, that psychiatrist, also gave us some insight. We are more prone to hate those because we see in them the things which we are guilty of ourselves.
In other words, don’t be so quick to condemn Herod. There is a little Herod in you, who likes to rule and grab for power. There is some Herod in you, which secretly wishes to live as if Christ had never been born.
But thanks be to God he was - born as promised in the Holy Scripture, in the city of David - God wrapped in human flesh, lying in a manger, worshipped by shepherds and angels.
Cain, that rebel man was driven east of the Garden, but now men from the East made wise by the Spirit of Christ are drawn back to the Lord of life. While Herod rages against Christ, the wise men travel from the distant east to fall down and worship him. They open up their treasures, confess him to be King with gold, incense as the high priest, and anoint the child with myrrh, thereby anointing him for his atoning death.
He will suffer for rebel man. He will die. Darkness will cover the earth. The third day, the Son will rise and the kingdom of the devil will crack under his pierced feet.
Arise, dear Christian for your light has come. Come out of the shadowlands, and come and behold your God.
Rivet all your attention on Jesus, this infant child. You are not the king. He is the king and his kingdom is better than yours. His heaven is better than your hell. He will win you. He will heal you. He will save you from Herod, the devil, and most importantly he’ll save you from yourself.
Present yourself as a subject to be ruled. He is a kind and gracious king. The sons and daughters of obedience accept their King, and bring everything they are in submission to him. Herod, Mr. Hyde, your rebel man are put to flight, drowned and put to death in the waters of baptism. In Him, through contrition and faith, through repentance and forgiveness, you emerge out of those heavenly waters to serve him righteousness and purity forever.
Therefore, be like the wise men, follow the bright star of the holy scriptures, cling tightly to the Word of God, and behold your king, not in the feed trough but enthroned in glory upon this altar - made known in bread and wine.
The coup d'etat has ended. Your king has come. Light has triumphed over darkness. Peace with God has been won. In the name of Jesus. Amen.
Prayer of the Church for the Epiphany of Our Lord, 6 January 2018
Let us pray for the whole Church of God in Christ Jesus and for all people according to their needs.
We come to You, holy Father, with great joy, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Through Him we beg You to accept and bless the prayers and offerings we bring, even as You were pleased with the gold, frankincense and myrrh offered to Your Son by the Magi of old. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.
Remember, Lord, Your Holy Church. Watch over her and guide her. Grant her peace and unity throughout the world. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.
Remember, Lord, our Synod president, Matthew; our district presidents; and all pastors, teachers, deaconesses and servants of the Church. Bless the International Outreach at this congregation, and our volunteers, that your love would be made known and others would come to faith in the holy Gospel. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.
Remember, Lord, our president, our public servants and all in our armed forces. Guide, bless, protect and uphold them in honor. Bring all nations into the ways of peace and justice. In Your kindness and love, grant us seasonable weather and an abundance of the fruits of the earth. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.
Remember, Lord, all who stand in need of healing in our congregation, especially for Gabriel Albers, Lou Gabriel, and those whom we name in our heart. Take each hurting heart under Your tender care and grant them Your peace and a happy issue out of all their afflictions. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.
Remember, Lord, all who are gathered here before You, our living and true God. We pray for our well-being and redemption. Order our days in Your peace, deliver us from the danger of eternal death, and number us among Your chosen flock. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.
Lord God, you are the creator and redeemer of all life. We thank you for the birth of Job Christopher German, son of Dr. and Kalia German. Bring Job to the waters of holy baptism to receive new life from above…and give to Dr. German and Kalia great joy and strength in the days ahead. Lord, in your mercy….
Holy Father, in communion with the whole Church we give You thanks for Your saints, in whom You have given us a mirror of Your mercy and grace. This holy day we especially thank You for the Magi, the firstfruits of the Gentiles to kneel in worship before Your Son. Give us grace to walk before You with faith like theirs, and grant us a share in their heavenly fellowship. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.
Lord God, we pray You, grant all who approach Your holy altar this day grace to receive worthily the sacramental mystery, the New Testament of our divine Redeemer. He is truly the Lamb of God, who gave Himself once and for all, as a holy, spotless and perfect sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sin and for the life and salvation of the whole world.
Through Him and with Him and in Him all honor and glory is Yours, O God the Father Almighty, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, forever and ever. Amen.