06. January 2013
Isaiah 60:1-6; Matthew 2:1-12
I had an epiphany. The light bulb went on. New evidence was brought to light. I was enlightened. I was no longer in the dark. I can see clearly now. The festival season of Epiphany is about God shining His heavenly light into the darkness of this life. He opens our eyes to His eternal reality. We are enlightened by His Word through the Holy Spirit. We are given an epiphany. The light bulb (of God’s sort) goes on. We are given new eyes to perceive [the] insight into the mystery of Christ.
The child born of Mary on Christmas is now on Epiphany revealed as God in the flesh. God is not only for the Jew but for the Gentile. This mystery was not known to the sons of men but has now been revealed to you through the mouth of the holy prophets and apostles by the Spirit. We have seen His star as it rose upon us. The glory of God is revealed in the flesh of the son of Mary.
The prophecy from Isaiah today reminds us how radical Jesus’ incarnation and salvation is. We’ve heard about Jesus incarnate, crucified, risen, and ascended for the salvation of the whole world. Now that that problem is taken care of what next? Two thousand years can breed complacency. We can easily become bored with the Jesus of the Scriptures. Jesus still is not what anyone expects. It takes a prophecy to overcome our natural inclinations for godly expectations.
Just like our fathers of old, we like to think of Christianity as private social club with Jesus as our team captain. You’ve got to be in-the-know and have the secret passcode. Oh, and don’t forget the necessary birthright. Others need not apply. But Isaiah calls this a darkness covering the earth and thick darkness the peoples. No one is enlightened, in-the-know, or extra special. All require this light of the LORD to arise upon them, for His glory to be seen.
And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. Magi for the east come to Jerusalem looking for this light, following His star. Two thousand years of Gentiles have received this gift of Christ for their salvation. Two thousand years of outsiders being enlightened. God shines His divine lightbulb into their hearts. The star of God’s Word still leads those who sit in darkness into His glorious light.
Necessary to enlightenment is the banishment of darkness. The Magi had expectations but they were confused, muddled, in the shadows. Their expertise in stargazing led them to recognize that a new king was born to the Jews. “We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” Where did they go to find Him but to the obvious Jerusalem, with palace and temple. The Spirit of Jesus had guided them to the right land but not to the right home.
They needed further light. They receive this enlightenment from the same place we do—the Scriptures. Even Herod and all Jerusalem need this lightbulb to go on. After Herod assembles all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. Where is the answer? Where is the Christ to be found? In Bethlehem of Judea (of course), for so it is written by the prophet. The prophet Micah prophesied the unexpected. Not Jerusalem but Bethlehem, a little town of insignificance (apart from being the town of David.)
By God’s Holy Word, the magi’s eyes are opened and they learn the true location of Christ. A simple light in the sky only led to them Jerusalem but God’s Word leads them to Christ’s home. And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. The light in the heavens was a reflection of the true light, the child born of woman and begotten of God. To follow the light isn’t merely to set your life on a trajectory more or less toward heaven but to gather around Jesus. Lift up your eyes all around and see. Just as promised, Christ has gathered unto Himself a holy people illuminated by His rising.
To be a merely magi—full of wisdom and knowledge—is not the same as being a Christian. Magi are like every noble and virtuous person of ages past and years to come. They look good to their neighbor. They fit our expectations for how God wants us to live. They may even speak with helpful lessons for family, work, or self-improvement. They’re good Christian people. But something is still missing.
Do you have that empty feeling? Does it seem like no matter how hard you try you can’t find fulfillment in this life? Does it seem something is missing? Is there no joy in your work, your parenting, or your marriage? Is life mundane and without thrill and happiness? Is your worship lacking?
Learn from the magi. Seek the Light where He has promised to be found. Do not go to Jerusalem, the place of earthly glory and wisdom. The wisdom of this world is foolishness and can bring no true joy. You can’t find God by trying harder to follow a set of practical rules. You can’t find God in nature, in hard work, or in practical religion.
The magi looked to the star and it wasn’t enough. They went to the earthly king and were unfulfilled. But when Micah spoke “O Bethlehem” their eyes were opened. Only when Herod sent them to find this King did they receive Him as He wanted to be found. Not until the knelt face down before the infant King of the Universe did they find what they were looking for.
You can only find Christ in His Word. Lift up your eyes all around and see. A heavenly host has gathered together in this place at the feet of Jesus. To listen to Him. To receive Him. There is not fulfillment in empty words of the world. But when Jesus says, “I forgive you!” it is done. Earthly washings cannot remove the soil of sin. But when He washes with water and Word, sins are washed away forever. The unquenchable hunger and thirst for righteousness is never met by all our efforts, works, and virtuous living. But our Lord feeds us with food that makes us righteous in His own body and blood.
Gathered together here, prophets, apostles, magi, and you witness the glory of the Lord. In the most Holy Supper, the glory of the God is revealed. He has brought to light for everyone the plan of the mystery hidden for ages. Christ Jesus is the epiphany of true wisdom. We are all children of God, fellow heirs in the body of Christ. Christ is our king, our priest, and our salvation.
And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. The answer to the darkness is to gather to the light. God has accepted you—not by birthright, nor by wisdom and knowledge, but by grace in Jesus Christ. He has called you by His Holy Spirit and reveals Himself to you in Holy Gospel.
Then you [with Christ] shall see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and exult. Your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. Like the magi of old let us cling to the holy child and receive forgiveness and eternal life in him. The answer to this life’s emptiness, joylessness, and boredom is Jesus. Simple as Him. Follow the star. God to His house. Receive Him. Worship Him. Rejoice!
In Name of the Father, + Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Rev. Christopher R. Gillespie
Grace Lutheran Church