Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Epiphany Sermon: "Epiphany Reveals Your Savior"

+ The Epiphany of Our Lord – January 6th, 2015 +
Redeemer Lutheran, HB
Isaiah 60:1-6; Ephesians 3:1-12; Matthew 2:1-12

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

Epiphany means to reveal, to make known. That’s why some of us say, “I had an epiphany” when we learn something new. Or we speak visually: “it was like a light-bulb turned on in my head.” And that’s a fitting image for Epiphany. Light casts out the darkness. Light reveals. Light is life.

Reminds me of something C.S. Lewis’ wrote: I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen; not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else. (The Weight of Glory)

Today the Church celebrates Epiphany. Epiphany shows us Jesus our Savior. Epiphany reveals that the helpless, defenseless babe of Bethlehem is the one who has come to banish all the wicked works of Satan and crush the Prince of darkness. Epiphany makes known to us, and to all the world, that the night of sin and death has ended in this infant king, your swaddled redeemer. Epiphany reveals to us, as it was revealed to the magi, that the ignorance and blindness of our sin-darkened minds is cast out by the radiant light of God’s Word.

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you… not by a dream or the light of a star, but in the lamp of His Word, by the Word made flesh who dwells among us.

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, magi 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.”

No doubt Herod put on a good face, but inside he was furious. Who were these wizards from the east talking about a king of the Jews? He was the king, not some infant. There’s only enough room in Israel for one king of the Jews.

Matthew’s Gospel goes on to reveal just how far Herod was willing to go in order to remain king of the holy hill. All young boys in Bethlehem, 2 and under…slaughtered. Only Jesus was the boy who lived.

History also reveals what a demonic monster Herod was. He killed one of his wives. Killed three sons, several Jewish scholars, and then two more sons and 300 of their supporters. Upon his death he ordered the Jewish leaders would be executed so there would be weeping and mourning over his death in Israel, an order that was never carried out thankfully. Caesar Augustus said it was better to be Herod’s sow than it was his own son.

But the magi didn’t know any of that. In fact, contrary to popular opinion, they didn’t really know much of anything at all. They watched the stars but that hardly made them wise guys. Matthew’s account shows us that every important detail they were given about Jesus came, not from their own wisdom and understanding, but from outside of themselves. Remember, it’s Epiphany, a revealing.

First, the magi travelled to Jerusalem, not Bethlehem. It was the ordinary place to go to find a king of the Jews, but Jesus was no ordinary king. In Jerusalem, Herod’s own Jewish court prophets were clueless. The prophet Micah had to bail them out and inform them where the Messiah was to be born. The star they followed to Bethlehem was also given to them to point the way to Jesus. And the only reason they didn’t fall for Herod’s trap of revealing Jesus’ whereabouts was by a dream not to return back through Jerusalem.

When you read the story again you realize, Epiphany isn’t so much about the magi seeking and finding Jesus as it is the Jesus revealing himself to otherwise ignorant people. First to the Magi, and then to us.

Just like the magi, in Epiphany we don’t find Jesus, Jesus finds us. We need to be found for we’re lost in sin. Darkness covers the earth…and our hearts and minds.

Herod of old wasn’t the only king threatened by Jesus. After all, there’s only enough room for one king, in Judea, and in the kingdom of our lives. Scripture also reveals that there’s a little Herod in each of us, the Herod of our old sinful nature. The little Herod in you and me who wants to be that king at all costs. You know this to be true when we know we should stop sinning, but we don’t. We – and we alone - want to determine what is right and true. And if any other king comes along to lay claim to you, well then he has to go.

And so our little King Herod within will tell you: that you’re better off without Jesus, or with less Jesus, or Jesus at a distance. Certainly you don’t need Jesus every Sunday. He or she works to convince you your sin isn’t that bad. He pats you on the back and consoles you when you’ve chosen money or pleasure or sports or work or anything else as your king. She gladly tells you, of course you can stop doing that sin any old time you want.

Like the magi, we too must be guided by Scripture to find the newborn king. All else is darkness. Like the magi, we too need a light from above to be a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path. Like the magi, Epiphany isn’t about us seeking Jesus, but rather about Jesus finding, seeking, and saving you. Calling you out of the darkness into his marvelous light.

Epiphany reveals to you that Jesus Christ is the Light of the World, the Light no darkness can overcome. Not your sin. Not my sin. Not the whole world of sin. Not even the devil himself could snuff out the Light of Light. Oh we all tried to dethrone King Jesus. The mutiny in the Garden led to the Coup of Jesus’ crucifixion.

Jesus’ Epiphany in Bethlehem points us to his Epiphany in Jerusalem. Behold the Light of the world covered in darkness on the cross. The glory of the Lord is raised up on a wooden tree.

“He is the gold of the Father, who, for your sake became poor, that you through his poverty, you are made rich. He is the frankincense and myrrh of heaven, the incense of whose sacrificed body will waft upward as a pleasing aroma to the Lord, an incense in which the stench of every sin becomes as perfume.” (Chad Bird)

God would stop at nothing to save you. He loves you too much to let you sit in darkness forever. So he gave up his priceless treasure for you, his Son, his only Son. For where our sin, and the wickedness of our little Herod within abounds, God’s grace and mercy in Christ abounds all the more. There is no sin of yours that is darker than the Light of Christ, and no sin left uncovered by the blood of Jesus, shed for you.

Epiphany reveals the King you need and the King you have in Jesus. The King who died for us his wayward, rebellious subjects. The High Priest who prays for you even as he dies for you: father forgive them for they know not what they do. The Prophet who speaks a promise that dispels the darkness of our sins the very moment he utters the words: today you will be with me in paradise.

“Jesus is the Epiphany of everything God is, everything God has, every gift God desires to lavish upon you. The Alpha of love, the Omega of grace, and every combination of the letters of the alphabet that spells out the Father’s will to save you.” (Chad Bird)

And the sign posted above his head reads: Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews. Behold, your King. Your Savior. Your Epiphany.

Come and worship him who drowns the little Herod in each of us in the font, like Pharaoh and his hosts in the Red sea.

Come and worship him who makes Holy Baptism your Epiphany, where the liquid sunshine of God’s mercy and grace is poured over you.

Come and worship him who fixes his Epiphany over you, not in a shining star, but in the pattern of his own cross. Now there’s a new king in our lives, who sends his Holy Spirit to illuminate his word, trust in his promises, and enlighten you where he reveals his mercy for you.

Come and worship him who reveals his body in the bread we eat, and his blood in the wine we drink. 

Come and worship him whom the magi worshiped 2000 years ago now present for us at his altar. 

Come and worship him who forgives all your sins of flesh and soul with his body and blood.

If Baptism is your Epiphany, and so is the Lord’s Supper, then so is Absolution. Jesus reveals and makes known his forgiveness for you. Lord, have mercy on me a sinner. The Light of Christ scatters our darkness with a word of light and life: I forgive you all your sins.

Arise, shine. Your light has come and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.

Rejoice with exceedingly great joy this Epiphany, with the magi and all nations, for Christ has shown himself to you and for you in his Epiphany.

A blessed Epiphany to each of you…

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

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