THE EPIPHANY OF OUR LORD, 1-6-2020
LUTHER MEMORIAL CHAPEL, SHOREWOOD, WISCONSIN
Rev. Michael Larson
Just imagine being a sailor at sea. Out on the dark cold abyss. Nothing but a vast expanse of darkness enveloping all that you see. One of the most frightening experiences you can have is to lose your bearings. To be directionless – adrift when your navigation fails you. Not knowing where you are or how to ever get back on course.
Again, imagine being a sailor out on the great dark expanse. But just imagine the thrill of seeing the glow from that lighthouse up on the hill. A radiant beam of light thrown out over the darkness – lighting the way – guiding – leading a ship and its sailors safely to shore. For many sailors a lighthouse meant life instead of death.
This feast of the Epiphany is all about just such a light. Because, let me tell you something, the whole human race was living in darkness, in the darkness of the shadow of death itself. Because you see, when man rebelled against the God of love we lost our way. We used to walk in paradise with the Lord in the cool of the day – but when our first parents sinned, you might say we were lost at sea, surrounded by spiritual darkness. But praise be to God, He did not leave our first parents without that glorious first promise of the Gospel: to send His Son Jesus.
And this was no afterthought but rather God’s plan from before the foundation of the world, to send His Son, born of a woman. To be our beacon, our guide, our lighthouse.
Consider deeply our Lord’s very first words to us. And God said, “let there be light, and there was light.” Because you see, when God speaks, He speaks His Son, Jesus. And the Word became flesh and dwelled among us. And we have seen His glory. For He Himself said: “I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
That promise is repeated by the prophet Isaiah tonight: “Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.” When Isaiah wrote, this condition in the world and even among God’s people was pretty sad, dark, and depressing. Wicked King Ahaz was on the throne of Judah. Darkness covered the earth and thick darkness the people. Folks, lost at sea, kept by Satan in sin’s darkness.
So Isaiah preached that glorious future life, to be revealed in Jesus Christ. And his preaching was a beacon of light cast over all those who dwelt in darkness. Arise, shine, for your light has come!
Now remember old Simeon, when Jesus came to the temple. He got it! He took that little bundle of light in his arms and prayed this prayer of thanksgiving: “Mine eyes have seen Thy salvation which Thou hast prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for the glory of Thy people Israel.”
This brings us to our Epistle reading tonight. Paul starts preaching about the mystery of Christ. What mystery? That Christ and His Gospel are for all people. God worked in a special way with the children of Israel, to be sure, but the greater purpose was that the whole world would know and receive, in his words, the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone (all nations, tribes, and languages) the mystery hidden for ages but now revealed in Christ! In other words, the Christian religion is for all people! It is for everyone, and it is the only true religion!
But come on now. Isn’t that cultural colonialism!? Isn’t that chauvinism!? No way. Stop living in darkness, following blindly the platitudes of our day. Jesus says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father but through me.” What other Savior might you find!? What other Lord is there that has dealt with your sins? Who else is going to raise up your body on the Last Day and deliver you from, sin and death, and bring you eternal blessedness? Simon Peter pondered that thought as well, but in the end all he could say is, “Lord, where else shall we go, you have the words of eternal life!”
So keep all this in mind when we see these Wise Men living in darkness who saw a great light – a star to guide them. That star brought them to Jerusalem, but ultimately it was the Word of God that led them – guided them to Bethlehem – to behold and worship our infant Lord. With gold they confessed His royalty. With incense they confess His deity. With myrrh they confessed His priestly sacrifice – His atoning death.
As those Wise Men were guided by the promises of Holy Scripture to find and worship the Christ Child - so does our Lord continue to call disciples from all nations by the preaching and illumination of His Holy Word.
So go to Mount Calvary. Look at the promised light nailed to a cross. Taking our darkness. And giving us His light! For the church, is after all, the lighthouse – calling us home to the joy and light of Christ and His Kingdom.
Again, imagine being a sailor out on the great dark expanse. Just imagine the thrill of seeing the glow from that lighthouse up on the hill. A radiant beam of light thrown out over the darkness – lighting the way – guiding – leading that ship and its sailors safely to shore.
Well, you don’t have to imagine it, because that’s just what happened! A bright shining glow from Calvary’s hill – a radiant beam of light thrown out over the darkness of this whole world – His cross lighting the way – guiding us – leading us all safely to heaven’s harbor. Our heavenly home with streets paved with gold.
And we’ll all walk together. Isaiah says it best: “Arise, shine, for your light has come and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you … lift up your eyes all around, and see: they all gather together … your sons shall come from afar and your daughters shall be carried on the hip. Then you shall see and be radiant, and your heart shall thrill and exult.” In the name of Jesus. Amen.