A blessed Feast of the Epiphany to all of you. Today is the 12th day of Christmas and at the same time the beginning of a new season in the church year, the Epiphany season. What’s it all about? Well, at Christmas we confessed God becoming man – the incarnation of God in the flesh, but now, during Epiphany, the church drives home the point that this Jesus, this child, is, in fact, God.
The great Epiphany Gospel lessons over the next few weeks emphasize the divinity of Jesus. We’ll hear about the boy Jesus in the temple, Jesus’ Baptism, the miracle of water into wine at Cana, and it all leads up to the Transfiguration – where Jesus shines with the light of the eternal Godhead.
Today, as this season begins, it all kicks off with the visit of Magi – the Wise Men. Plenty of debate about who these Wise Men are. Perhaps astrologers, philosophers, and Eastern intellectuals. They likely embodied the very best wisdom of the Gentile world.
But what’s really interesting here is that they’re probably the most unlikely folks of all to be first on the scene to worship the promised Messiah. They follow a bright shining star to the capital city of the Jews, the logical place to find Him, but when they get there, there’s no birthday party at all for a king. It’s just business as usual!
“What’s going on here? Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and we have come to worship him.”
Well, as you know, Jesus wasn’t born in Jerusalem, although He’d complete His work there on the cross. No, His birth was in Bethlehem.
Martin Luther made a special point about this to his congregation. He pointed out that the star in the sky didn’t actually get the job done for the Wise Men. It announced to them that a king had been born, but it didn’t actually tell them where exactly He was to be found.
Human reason brought those Wise Men to the logical spot, Jerusalem. But even that miraculous star could only get them so far. Because it ultimately had to be the Word of God, the Sacred Scriptures, to lead them to their final destination.
You see, a small-group Bible study took shape with Herod, the chief priests, the scribes, and the Wise Men, and there they found their answer. In Bethlehem of Judea, that’s where the king was to be born, as the prophet Micah had proclaimed generations before.
So those Wise Men grabbed hold of that promise and set off again, this time toward Bethlehem, the city of David. And suddenly that bright shining star rose again, and this time led them all the way to the house where the child and His mother were to be found.
When they came into the presence of Jesus, they fell down and worshipped Him. They opened their treasures of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And what a confession they gave! Gold because Jesus is king.
Frankincense, because He is God in the flesh. And myrrh, to proclaim His death for the life of the world.
Today we celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany. We celebrate the wonderful mystery that the first worshippers of Jesus are Gentiles from a foreign land. Today is really a celebration of the way that God has thrown open the door of His grace to all people.
Make this Epiphany personal for you. Isaiah preaches to us, “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.” Last Christmas, I think, I told you about how the Gospel came to my family, when I was a kid. A minister knocked on my parents’ apartment door and invited them to church. You’ve got stories too, wonderful and interesting stories about the work of the Holy Spirit and the joy and light of the Gospel coming to you too. About our God in heaven opening wide the door of His grace to you and those whom you love.
Our ancestors from Germany or Scandinavian lands were living in darkness in their villages and forests, worshipping false gods, trees, and rocks until the first Christian missionaries came to them – preaching the light and love of Christ.
Pastor Kissling, the first pastor of Luther Memorial Chapel, and a crew moved a portable chapel all around the city, preaching God’s Word and bringing the light of Christ around the city of Milwaukee. Before the building of the church in which we now worship tonight.
The point is that the sweet meaning of Christmas and the preaching of Epiphany will have little meaning if you do not apply it personally to yourself. That’s what Isaiah is driving home to you tonight in our first reading: “Your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.”
Learn from those Wise Men. Be led to His light. Not off to Jerusalem, some relic or holy site, but be led by the bright shining star of God’s own Word to where Christ promises to be found. In His preaching and His Word. And by your pastor standing above where Christ lies – hidden under bread and wine – at the altar for your life and your salvation.
As we step into the presence of His light, we discover much darkness in ourselves. But He who is light Himself shares that light with us.
Worship Him. Offer Him your gifts, and all that you are, but most importantly, receive His gifts: His embrace, His welcome, His forgiveness and love. Because here is the light that shines more brightly than that miraculous star. The light of divine love shining from the face of Mary’s Son. In the name of Jesus. Amen.
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OFFERINGS TO LMC
Please remember your gifts to LMC. There are a few options for giving:
- You can mail your weekly offerings to the church.
- You can also do an online bill pay through your bank account, which can recur each month. Your bank then sends LMC a check with your offering. There is no cost to you or LMC for this.
- You can set up online giving through an App called Tithe.ly. There is a small fee associated with this transaction. You may find this option at www.lmcusc.org/give.