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LSB Epiphany of Our Lord Sermon – Matthew 2:1-12

January 8, 2015

January 6, 2015 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church – Mechanicsburg, PA

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw His star when it rose and have come to worship Him.” 

The LORD uses announcers to declare His presence. You have heard this throughout Advent and Christmastide. An angel announces to Mary that she will bear a Child, who is holy—the Son of God. In a dream, the angelic message reaches Joseph that his betrothed has not been unfaithful but has conceived of the Holy Spirit, that her Son is the promised Savior. Angels again speak concerning Jesus’ birth, declaring to shepherds the good news that is meant for all people: that the Christ has been born.

But the announcements do not end there. One more is made concerning the presence of the LORD. Yet this announcement does not come from an angel. Instead, the announcement comes from the LORD’s using His creation to reveal His presence in His creation. That announcement was heard in the Gospel Reading for the Epiphany of Our Lord: “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is He who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw His star when it rose and have come to worship Him.’”

The announcement of the Christ’s birth is given through the heavenly beings. A star rises and is seen by the Magi. The appearance of that celestial object causes these wise men to leave their homes and come to Jerusalem. Because of the star’s rising, they seek out one who has been born as a king in Israel.

But what happens when the wise men reach Jerusalem? They don’t find a newborn prince at all. In fact, their presence in Israel’s traditional capital causes much distress: “When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.” The star’s announcement brought great consternation. Herod is challenged by the message; the Magi don’t find the person they were looking for in Jerusalem.

However, another act happens in Jerusalem. The Scriptures are consulted: “And assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, [Herod] inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: “And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a Ruler who will shepherd My people Israel.”’” The LORD’s statements concerning His Christ are examined. What the LORD had declared is considered. And that brings about the finding of the Christ.

With the knowledge of the LORD’s Word, the Magi are able to find the Christ: “And [Herod] sent them to Bethlehem, saying, ‘Go and search diligently for the Child, and when you have found Him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship Him.’ After listening to the king, they went on their way. 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.” Now the wise men can find what they were looking for. Now the Magi are brought into the LORD’s presence: “When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house they saw the child with Mary His mother, and they fell down and worshiped Him.”

This event shows how the LORD works in His creation. The LORD exhibits His power and majesty in the world. The creation can reveal this, as the psalmist declares: “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims His handiwork.” That truth becomes part of the hymnist’s piety: “O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder / Consider all the works Thy hand hath made, / I see the stars, I hear the mighty thunder, / Thy pow’r throughout the universe displayed….”

But this is not bringing the people into fellowship with the LORD. Like the Magi, they can be left in their own Jerusalems without getting to where the Christ is present. And even holding the belief that the creation came into existence by the LORD can be a challenging statement which causes consternation. There are other Herods who don’t want to lose their grip over the cosmos.

But the LORD brings people into fellowship with Himself through His statements. When His words are heard, then individuals are led to know Him and His ways. They get to see His Christ. They are led to His presence in the world that brings about salvation. They can rightly worship Him, not just as a Creator but as their Redeemer.

This has happened to you. The announcement of the Christ’s birth has been made known for you to hear. And not only His birth has been announced, so has His life, His death, and His resurrection. These have not been made known to you through a star or any other part of the creation. But you have received the proclamation of this in the LORD’s words.

That has been spoken of this evening. It is the point of Paul’s statements: “When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit…. To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.”

The Church proclaims what the LORD has said and done, just like the chief priests and scribes did in Jerusalem. And when this is done, the presence of the LORD in the world for salvation is made known. The preaching of that calls individuals to share in it. The Church goes out with the message: “Listen! Come and hear what the LORD has done for you. As you do so, you are brought into fellowship with Him. Yes, He is the reason why you exist, but He is even more than that. He forgives your sins. He accomplishes your salvation. He extends your life beyond the grave. He makes you part of a great group of individuals of all times and places who shall live for eternity.”

This is how the LORD continues to announce His presence in the world as a Redeemer. He declares it through His the speaking of His deeds. But this isn’t just a recitation of factual matters. It isn’t a set of trivial data to memorize. Instead, that word performs actions when it is spoken. This is how the light continues to shine in the darkness, how the glory of the LORD rises upon people even now.

That shining of the LORD’s light in Christ forms the basis for what you sang in the words of one of the chief hymns in our Lutheran tradition: “Lord, when You look on us in love, / At once there falls from God above / A ray of purest pleasure. / Your Word and Spirit, flesh and blood / Refresh our souls with heav’nly food. / You are our dearest treasure! / Let Your mercy / Warm and cheer us! / O draw near us! / For You teach us / God’s own love through You has reached us.”

The LORD has announced His presence in the world for you. He has called you here to where His word of promise is heard and where it acts for your benefit. The One born king of the Jews is present here with you. He shines His light of righteousness, deliverance, and life into the darkness of your sin, your captivity, your death. The LORD’s statements concerning His Christ are made known to you. And so you find Him. You rejoice with exceeding joy. You come and worship Him. And He brings you into His glory and light.

Then the increase happens. You become the people who share in the LORD’s glory and light. You become the people who know where the LORD is found. You become the people who speak about the righteousness, deliverance, and life that the LORD has brought into this world. And so others are led to where the Christ is found, so that they may have the same that you have received: nations coming to your light and kings to your brightness. What the LORD declares comes to pass, “according to the eternal purpose that He has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in Him.” So it shall be as people come to where the Christ is present, hearing what the LORD announces, just as the Magi did.

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

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