TEXT: MATTHEW 2:1-12/ISAIAH 60:1-6/EPHESIANS 3:1-12
IN THESE DARK AGES – CHRIST IS THE LIGHT!
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting

To the saints who are at Luther Memorial Chapel and University Student Center and are faithful in Christ Jesus, Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (see Ephesians 1: 1-2).  Dear hearers of the Word made flesh;

The Dark Ages!
  This phrase used to be a common way of designating the period from the decline of the Roman Empire through the bulk of The Middle Ages.  The term implied scarcity of historical records and an assumed intellectual darkness of that period.  Many scholars today avoid that term altogether.  They find it misleading and inaccurate as more information and more accomplishments of The Middle Ages have come to light.

 



THE EPIPHANY OF OUR LORD – JAN 6, 2013
TEXT: MATTHEW 2:1-12/ISAIAH 60:1-6/EPHESIANS 3:1-12
IN THESE DARK AGES – CHRIST IS THE LIGHT!
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting

To the saints who are at Luther Memorial Chapel and University Student Center and are faithful in Christ Jesus, Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (see Ephesians 1: 1-2).  Dear hearers of the Word made flesh;

The Dark Ages!
  This phrase used to be a common way of designating the period from the decline of the Roman Empire through the bulk of The Middle Ages.  The term implied scarcity of historical records and an assumed intellectual darkness of that period.  Many scholars today avoid that term altogether.  They find it misleading and inaccurate as more information and more accomplishments of The Middle Ages have come to light.

The Dark Ages!
  When the first draft of our first book on the Lord’s Supper was submitted to CPH I did not use the phrase The Dark Ages.  The first editor I was assigned said (in effect) that I was in the dark without a complete chapter on The Dark Ages.   He asked for a rewriting of those chapters of history.  That took several months and a resubmission!  Some months later that editor was fired and a second one took over our book!  His first e-mail to me indicated that some of my history was (in effect) in the dark.  He asked that I rewrite the history of the Middle Ages removing any characterization of that period as The Dark Ages!    

The Dark Ages!  Scholars have always argued about what constitutes light and darkness.  The truth is that every age can be labeled “dark.”  Think of the Roman Empire so lauded in comparison with the centuries after its collapse.  What of the darkness of Rome’s expansive claims, and mercenary armies, and destructive wars, and bloody entertainment of gladiators and persecution, and emperor worship, and sexual perversions and crippling taxations.   The great Roman Empire collapsed under the darkness of its own weight! 

Or consider fully the effects of the enlightenment – which surely came with good relief from some superstitions and with some good use of reason and with the great helpfulness of the scientific method.  The pre-scientific mind jumped quickly to God without understanding the physical processes He most often uses.  The pre-scientific mind knew that God makes it rain but did not know the mechanisms God uses to make it rain such as cold fronts and warm fronts and low and high pressure areas.  

But what darkness also came from the enlightenment and rationalism.  “Materialists” and “naturalists” claiming to be “free thinkers” and to hold no form of religious creed – now apply unproven creeds to all aspects of life.  They religiously believe that there is nothing beyond nature.  They religiously believe that the incredible design in creation and in the human body is an accident.  They religiously believe that there were once thousands and millions of intermediate life-forms though there is no verifiable fossil evidence of just one such life form and no intermediate life forms in any recorded history.  

There is nothing particularly intelligent or enlightened about disbelieving God and religiously believing in unseen and un-provable ideas proposed to deny God.  Any thought of God’s creation is replaced with faith in a fixed and godless fate – a cosmic prison.  You as a Christian are quite free to believe that there is a considerable amount of settled order and development in the universe.  Materialists, however, are forbidden to admit into their indoctrinated minds the slightest spec of divinity or intelligence outside the amazing complexity and design in this world and in the human body.  What darkness!  St. Paul spoke of his call to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things!  With no creator – no light!  The Psalmist said it this way, “The fool says in his heart there is no God.”(Psalm 14:1; 53:1)  The Dark Ages!  Darkness and light are often confused.  The prophet Isaiah wrote “Woe to those who put darkness for light and light for darkness… who are wise in their own eyes… (Isaiah 5:20-21).

So what of the magi (the wise men) who came to worship Jesus?  On January 6th the church marks their coming from the East and Christ first revealing Himself also to Gentiles.  January 6th also begins the season of Epiphany which means “outshining”/“shining all around.”  This season stresses God’s light piercing the darkness of our world – God’s light shining forth in the flesh of Jesus Christ.

The length of time from Jesus’ birth is unstated when – “look” – behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?  It was sometime after Jesus’ birth when the magi arrived for they refer to His birth in the past tense.  Worldly wise Herod was politically smooth, careful in calculation.  His subsequent scheme to slaughter the male babies in Bethlehem two years and younger – would give the upper side of Jesus’ possible age – with perhaps some cruel cushion by Herod.    

The magi were not kings – as some of the carols express.  They were generally servants of royal figures.  Interestingly, they most likely would not have been considered “wise” by Matthew’s original readers.  The book of Daniel differentiates between pagan occult advisers to the king and Daniel and his companions.  The captive Judeans in Babylon did not serve in the same capacity as “the magicians, the soothsayers, the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans” (2.2).  While practitioners of the occult were viewed as wise in pagan courts – such magicians and soothsayers were not viewed as wise by God and by Israel.  When Daniel solved the dreams and riddles of the kings it was because no occultist and no diviner could!  God worked through a different kind of wise man – namely Daniel – to reveal His mysteries.  

This distinction is important lest we think it was the bright intellect or the human wisdom of the power of sorcery or astrology that brought the magi to the Christ child.  Matthew’s original readers would have been surprised by the appearance of magi - servants of foreign rulers – rulers who often oppressed God’s people.  Far from being wise in holy matters, the magi are men in the dark to whom God reveals Christ!  God apparently pierced their darkness with prophecy (for a star alone would not have revealed the child’s title – “the king of the Jews”).  Then God pierced their darkness with a star – then He pierced their darkness with Scripture (2:6) identifying Bethlehem as the place of Christ’s birth – then He led them with a star to where the child actually was (2:9).  Finally He warned them in a dream because they were in danger of being duped by King Herod’s private audience with them and the cunning plan He hid from them.
   
Dear Christians – the magi are men in the dark to whom God reveals Christ!  The Dark Ages include the magicians and soothsayers and sorcerers and Chaldeans and indeed all the advisors of all the kings of all the world.  The wisdom of the magi comes from the outside of them not from inside them – from God’s leading!  The Dark Ages also include Jerusalem at the time of the birth of Christ.  The holy city was unaware of God’s entry into His creation in the flesh!  Their expressed wisdom comes only from the prophet Micah when they are troubled by the magi’s question about where the promised king of the Jews was to be born.  God’s piercing light reveals Bethlehem!  God’s piercing light also revealed to these wealthy travelers that the Christ child was worthy of their best – Gold (homage to the King who owned it already) – Incense (used in worship of God) – Myrrh (used in Scripture to anoint a beautiful bride (Song of Solomon – 3:6; 4:6, 14) and to embalm the dead (Mark 15:23/John19:39).

The Dark Ages
– in this New Year - 2013!  Beloved you are surrounded by magi – by people who consider themselves wise and whom our culture considers wise but who are spiritually dead – lost in darkness!  Behold, darkness…cover(s) the earth…and thick darkness the peoples.  You and I constantly need an Epiphany star – to give us wisdom from outside our darkened hearts and minds.

Enter the Holy Spirit – revealing the light of God’s mystery – revealing the manifold wisdom of God.  St. Paul speaks of the revelation of the Spirit (Ephesians 3:5) and of the stewardship (the house management) of God’s grace that was given to him for the Gentiles – insight into the mystery of Christ.  This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel…To me…this grace was given to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ…

The unsearchable riches of Christ!  He is the light for The Dark Ages – including our own!  The Dark Ages began when our first parents reached for wisdom beyond what God’s love had given.  They hope to be enlightened by Satan’s temptation – “Did God really say, “You shall not eat…?”  When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.  Then the eyes of both were opened…opened that is to The Dark Ages - the darkness of deceiving and of doubting God and shaming and blaming and fearing and hiding from God and toiling and hurting and dying.  The Dark Ages means there is often now great darkness in that which looks good and delights the eyes and even seems to promise earthly wisdom.  

But into that darkness the light of a piercing promise was also hurled!  The male seed of the woman would come to bruise – crush - Satan’s deceiving, accusing head (Genesis 3:15).  Let your heart…thrill and exult!  That male seed has come!  God is faithful to His promises!  Born of The Virgin Mary - born in Bethlehem -born King of the Jews and Savior of the world!  The magi were right to rejoice exceedingly with great joy.  And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him.

Now the mystery is all lit up!  It was always in God’s heart to rescue you home!  The unsearchable riches of the Messiah are for God’s Old Testament people – the Jews – but also for the Gentiles!  The unsearchable riches of Christ are for you whatever shadows intrude into your life – even and especially when it is the valley of the shadow of death!

His riches cannot be searched out – analyzed - audited and fully understood!  But they can be received!  His riches include His holy precious blood and His once for all sacrifice for sin!  His riches include His victory over death revealed by His empty tomb in the early morning light of the third day!  His riches include His Word which always does what it says – absolving – bestowing peace – baptizing!  His riches include the Father’s presence – forever!  “What joy to know when life is past, the Lord we love is first and last, the end and the beginning!”

His riches also include you – His Bride – His children – forgiven – walking in the light of His Word – feasting on His heavenly food!  Again St. Paul – To me…this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ…so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known…

Like the magi - it is always people who are in the dark and who are led to know it - to whom the Holy Spirit reveals Christ!  Like the magi, it is not anyone’s superior anything that moves them from the darkness of unbelief to the light of worshipping Christ in the flesh!  Like the magi – you are also right to rejoice exceedingly with great joy – Arise, shine for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you!  Like the magi – you are also right to open your precious treasures to Christ as He leads you home by another way!  

Now the mystery is all lit up for you!  It was always in God’s heart to rescue you home!  It is in God’s heart to bring the light of the Gospel to all those dwelling in The Dark Ages.  Praise the Lord, all nations!  Extol him, all peoples!  For great is his steadfast love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.  Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering and come into his courts!   

In the Name of Jesus, AMEN.  

 

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