Sermons

Epiphany—Observed (Mt 2:1–12)

January 3, 2016
Immanuel Lutheran Church—Bremen, KS || AUDIO
Bethlehem Lutheran Church—Bremen, KS || AUDIO

INI + AMEN.

Merry Gentile Christmas! You heard that right. That’s what were observing today. January 6th is Gentile Christmas. It’s also known as Epiphany. That is the last day of Christmas and the beginning of a new season in the Church year: Epiphany, Gentile Christmas. The day we see that King Jesus isn’t just born King of the Jews, but He’s King and Lord of all. He is born for all. But we’re so used to the Christmas story we miss the impact of what Matthew recounts for us. We’re so used to the Christmas story that we forget that it’s about two years after Jesus is born that these strange men from the East just show up in Jerusalem. It really is strange. These Magi, from parts unknown, who are astrologers, get an inkling that something’s up in Jerusalem. “Wise Men” doesn’t quite do it justice. They’re Magi, from which we get the word “magician.” What are these men doing here looking for “Him who was born King of the Jews”? Besides that, they’re in the wrong place! We learn a very important lesson from Matthew’s account of the Magi. We learn that

ONLY GOD’S WORD LEADS YOU TO THE ONE TRUE KING.

(I. Only His Word leads you.)

Nothing else can lead you to the one true King. There’s no Jedi “search your feelings.” There’s no experience that will lead you in the right direction. Adam and Eve tried all that: “When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.” But so often we look to our feelings, emotions, and experiences to “find God.” We’ll also look to those sorts of things to try and figure out God’s will for our lives. But if you’re trying to find your way in Kansas with a map of Argentina, you won’t end up anywhere but lost. So it is with the Magi. They see a star and go to Jerusalem, but we all know that Jesus isn’t in Jerusalem!

What can explain any of these weird goings on with the Magi? It must be the Word. Always the Word. It is there we must begin and end for there in the Word we will find the Beginning and the End, the Alpha and the Omega, the Lord Jesus proclaimed, manifested, epiphanied for us. Jesus’ Spirit proclaimed through Balaam in Numbers 24, “I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near; A Star shall come out of Jacob; A Scepter shall rise out of Israel.” The Magi have this word left over from the people of Israel when they were in the exile some 600 years before Christ. “A new star,” they think. “Where else would a king be in Israel? In Jerusalem!” So off they go. The problem is they then rely on themselves to get them there. You don’t just need the Word of God at the start of your journey. Not just when you’re a kid, or in confirmation, but you need it at the beginning, middle, and end. Anything else is sin and wickedness. These “wise men” need hear more word of God from “all the chief priests and scribes of the people.” The star won’t tell them where the King is, but Micah will: “But you Bethlehem, in the Land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah. For from you shall come a ruler.” More word of God for these Magi. They depart. They trust this word of God and head toward Bethlehem. It is then, and only then, once they have faith in that Word of God, does this miraculous, once-in-all-creation star move for them. Once they’re grounded in the Word, then God uses a miracle to guide them. “The star that they saw in the east”—they only saw it—“went before them until it stopped.” It is the Word which brought them to the toddler Jesus. Without that word, how many other places would they have searched? And their journey is finished off with a word from an angel: “warning them to depart by another way.”

Nothing else will properly lead you except God’s Word. Only His Scriptures will guide you to the one true King, will deliver to you the one true King. Only by His Word will you know who the one true King is, and what He’s come to do. From His Word today we know that

(II.) This King is God and Shepherd.

We know that this King Jesus is God. We must hear more from Micah, which Matthew sites only a segment from. Micah says that from Bethlehem “shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting.” The Ruler, the King is from of old, from everlasting. He is Alpha. He is Omega. The Jesus toddler is this Ruler. The Word points to Him. A miracle confirmed the Word. He is also Shepherd of Israel like David His father before Him. He will call His sheep from their various wanderings. They wandered because they lived not by His Word. He will call them to repentance. He will lead His people to the streams of living water that flow from His pierced side, to the green pastures of His own self, His body given for them. He is Shepherd in the valley of grave, death, and empty tomb. But Jesus isn’t just Shepherd of a small group of people, not just the people of Israel, but He is King of all. The Magi bow before Him. By His Word and confirming sign and miracle He drew them to Himself.

He draws you too. He rules now by His Word. His Word which washed you and made you God’s child, giving you the Spirit as downpayment on eternal life. His Word which Absolves your not clinging to His Word. His Word written and preached. His Word that brings you His body and blood. Your King is in this place! As certainly as He was in Bethlehem, He is here. Manifesting Himself. Epiphanying Himself for you. How do we know this? From His Word! It’s the only thing that will lead us to Him. Nothing else will do it. Nothing else can do it! That’s what the Magi learned. The only way to find the one true King was through God’s Word. God leads you to Jesus, the one true King. He does it through His Word. To forsake His Word is to give up any chance of finding Him where He wants to be found. He wants to be found here. It’s where He meets you with His promises, forgiveness, and life—things far more precious than “gold, frankincense, and myrrh.”

So Merry Gentile Christmas! Jesus is here. His Word which we’ve sung and will sing in the Liturgy tells us so! His Word has brought us here. Nothing else would do it. If something else brought you here, like a sense of responsibility or whatever else, take heart, I forgive you. He’s commanded me to tell you that for Him. So it’s true. His Word can’t be anything else!

INI + AMEN.

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