Grace, mercy, and peace to you in name of God the Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Perhaps the Christmas glow has warn off a bit for some of us. The gifts have all been unwrapped. The work schedule is back to normal and soon the kids will be back to school. The decorations are put away or at least you’re trying to figure out how to find time to do so.
In the Church year Christmas is only 12 days and then it makes way for Epiphany, but that doesn’t mean the glow of Christmas does not still shine. When someone gives you a Christmas gift you unwrap it, you say thank you, and then you put it to use; if clothes or jewelry you wear them; if a toys you play with them; if food you eat it.
The relationship of Epiphany to Christmas is like this. Christmas is when you unwrap the gift. Epiphany is when you get to take it out of the box so to speak and see what it does and enjoy it. God’s Christmas gift is a gift like no other. In this gift God gives you himself. With the Christmas child you can know the heart and mind of God. You learn of his good will toward you, his mercy, and unflinching determination to making us his people forever!
As we give our thanks to God for this gift and this day of Epiphany we start to see the beginnings of how this gift works, what it’s all about, and how we can enjoy it.
“Arise, Shine!” God says to you, “Your light has come and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.” By the light of a star the Wise Men were led to the Light of the World, the Christ child, to walk no longer in the darkness of the earth, or thick darkness that covered the people. They abandoned the darkness of their gods, their house gods, their cultural gods, their gods of science and stars which by grace the true God would use to bring them to hear His Word in Jerusalem before they’d go to see the Word Incarnate in the arms of his mother. Now by the light of the very same Word you walk in the light as the Magi did! Arise, shine! Your light has come and the glory of Yahweh has shone upon you.
That was Epiphany then, but are we to be bystanders watching as these men bow down to worship their salvation who was by that time many months old or perhaps over a year? Indeed, how sad it would be if that’s all Epiphany meant for us. If it only served to have a few words of Isaiah’s prophecy fulfilled, that is men coming from the east, bearing gifts of incense and gold, though that is awesome it also would be a pity for that means the gift has nothing for us now.
Epiphany holds much comfort and joy for us now. This morning we identified ourselves with Herod, which seems a difficult thing to do, but we confess of our little Herod like rebellions against God every time we confess our sins. This evening we identify with the Magi. They seem mysterious, but they too in many ways are Everyman.
They were spiritually lost outsiders whom God chose to guide to His Son. Ironically the Father did this by using their false trust of the stars. Guided by the star God brings them to Herod’s palace to hear the Scriptures and then go to Bethlehem and see Christ whose birth the angels sing.
The moment the Magi met the child they were immediately unemployed. They’d been searching the skies all their lives looking for truth. They’d become rich doing so as they looked for purpose, meaning, wonder, and salvation from the sky. Now, the true God had led them to a little town and shown them that all that they thought they could find in the stars is contained here in this little child. He is the purpose of their lives, to become heralds to Jerusalem and back in the East that God had sent a Savior king. Their idols were smashed the moment they knelt before their king and savior.
Like the Magi we search for purpose, meaning, and wonder. We can try to find it by stirring up religious feelings on Christmas and Easter. We can try to find it by giving ourselves to our work and burning the midnight oil at the altar of success. We can try filling our lives with healthy relationships, healthy families, and healthy friendships. We can try to control our lives by deciding what might give us meaning apart from the Christ child. The only problem is we know from experience eventually all those things we use to replace Him fall short. They’re like chasing after stars. Feelings wear off, work soon turns into monotony, healthy relationships can always be healthier, friends and family die.
Epiphany shows us that the God has prepared everything you need for purpose, meaning and wonder wrapped up in a little child. You’re no longer blown about by the wind of your emotions. You don’t doubt your value before God because you had a bad day or because of your sins. You look to Christ who showed you His love, God’s love, by lying down His life for you; taking your sins with Him. You don’t have to be a victim of the workaday doldrums, because as Christ said, “Whenever you have served the least of these my brother you have also served me.” Your work has purpose and meaning not because of the paycheck at the end of the week or the accolades of your coworkers. It has meaning because God has given it to you to glorify Him, to love your neighbor, and to grow in trust in His forgiveness and love because work is not without it’s own sins and challenges.
Epiphany also keeps you from making an idol of your relationships. You have the greatest relationship you could ever ask for in your King and Lord Jesus. When relationships are strained and trouble arises you have the peace and assurance that in Christ you are always reconciled to God. When Christian family and friends and are lost to death you can look to Christ and remember His resurrection from the dead.
This just touches the surface of all the meaning wrapped up in Epiphany for us. Following the way to King Jesus doesn’t take us out of the world, but into the world to shine as beacons of His light who all point to the King of crib and cross. Epiphany points us again and again to our Savior enthroned in the arms of a mother. Enthroned with thorns for a crown, a spear for a scepter, a cross for a seat and now He is enthroned at the right hand of God the Father almighty. Likewise, now and always like the Magi He has the throne of our hearts. Even now He dwells in you by faith and as you received His true body and blood this morning at this altar. In Jesus’ name. Amen.