The Epiphany of Our Lord

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Matthew 2:1-12

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

“The loving providence of God determined that in the last days he would aid the world, set on its course to destruction. He decreed that all nations should be saved in Christ.  A promise had been made to the holy patriarch Abraham in regard to these nations.  He was to have a countless progeny, born not from his body but from the seed of faith. His descendants are therefore compared with the array of the stars. The father of all nations was to hope not in an earthly progeny but in a progeny from above.  Let the full number of the nations now take their place in the family of the patriarchs.  Let the children of the promise now receive the blessing in the seed of Abraham, the blessing renounced by the children of his flesh. In the persons of the Magi let all people adore the Creator of the universe; let God be known, not in Judaea only, but in the whole world, so that his name may be great in all Israel.

“Dear friends, now that we have received instruction in this revelation of God’s grace, let us celebrate with spiritual joy the day of our first harvesting, of the first calling of the Gentiles. Let us give thanks to the merciful God, who has made us worthy, in the words of the Apostle, to share the position of the saints in light, who has rescued us from the power of darkness, and brought us into the kingdom of his beloved Son.  As Isaiah prophesied: the people of the Gentiles, who sat in darkness, have seen a great light, and for those who dwelt in the region of the shadow of death a light has dawned.  He spoke of them to the Lord: The Gentiles, who do not know you, will invoke you, and the peoples, who knew you not, will take refuge in you.  Again, the Lord has made known his salvation; in the sight of the nations he has revealed his justice.  This came to be fulfilled, as we know, from the time when the star beckoned the…wise men out of their distant country and led them to recognize and adore the King of heaven and earth. The obedience of the star calls us to imitate its humble service: to be servants, as best we can, of the grace that invites all men to find Christ” (St. Leo the Great).

To imitate the humble service of that obedient star, to be instruments of the grace of God, inviting anyone and everyone to come and see, come and see.  That is part of what we do when we stop here, at the place where the Lord Jesus may be found.  We know He is here because His Word is here, His Sacraments are here, His forgiveness is here.  The simple invitation is not hard; it is the fear of rejection, the fear of mockery.  But that is not our concern.  We are not to worry about the reaction to the Word of Christ, whether others will bow and worship or return to their homes unbelieving.  But to see that the Word is preached, that is our concern.  God help us to do this!  God preserve His holy Word and Sacraments to us, even as He has these many years.  Only by faith do the Jews see Christ and believe.  Only by faith do we Gentiles see Christ and believe.

This day, the twelfth day of Christmas, is for us to celebrate and rejoice, no less than December 25, that our Lord chose to submit to all the weakness and limitation of our flesh so that He could experience the greatest weakness: death; so that He could destroy death for you and bring you through death to life.  This day is the day that we celebrate the coming to Christ of pagans, astrologers.  These are not Jews, nor do they fear the God of Israel.  We do not even know if their worship was true worship or if they were simply paying their respects to a new king.  But we do know that the toddler Christ, in the house with Mary and Joseph, was born for them.  In the temple with Simeon and Anna was the beginning of the revelation of the glory of God’s people Israel; today we celebrate the Light that is a revelation to the Gentiles.  This day means that Christ is for you, and for all those who hear His Word and believe.  “This is the day that Abraham saw, and rejoiced to see, when he knew that the sons born of his faith would be blessed in his seed, that is, in Christ. Believing that he would be the father of the nations, he looked into the future, giving glory to God, in full awareness that God is able to do what he has promised.  This is the day that David prophesied in the psalms, when he said: All the nations that you have brought into being will come and fall down in adoration in your presence, Lord, and glorify your name” (ibid.).  “May all kings fall down before him, all nations serve him!” (Psalm 72:11, ESV).

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

— Pr. Timothy Winterstein, 1/2/09


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