An Epiphany Devotion / 10 January 2016

Preached at St. John Lutheran Church – Orange. 10 January 2016. Bach Choral Vespers.

Wise men came from the East to worship Him. His first worshippers were Bethlehem’s shepherds. Now it is Babylon’s astrologers who have come to see and worship. Jesus is Lord and Savior of all. A light to give light the Gentiles, and the glory of His people Israel.

They followed a well-worn path from the East. Centuries before, the Queen of Sheba had come from the East to pay homage to David’s son Solomon in all his splendor. These wise men came to see David’s greater Son and to pay their homage with similar gifts fit for a king – gold, frankincense, myrrh. The Israelites had once gone into exile in Babylon; now Babylon goes to Israel to inquire, “Where is he who is born king of the Jews?”

Before there were astronomers, there were astrologers. Before Copernicus and Galileo and Kepler and the Hubble telescope and Voyager satellites there were Magi, star gazing astrologers who studied the stars not for mechanisms and models but for meaning and mystery. A star had caught their eye, a light signaling the birth of a king in Judea. God is good and gracious as He is resourceful. He uses something that would catch the astrologer’s eye and serve as a pointer – a star. Where the shepherds heard the preaching of an angel, the wise men were given a star. The Israelites get an angelic preacher; the Gentiles get a star.

They followed their reason and the star to the reasonable place, Jerusalem, the king’s city, and the palace of Herod, the king of the Jews, expecting to find the baby. But there was no king born to Herod’s household. Reason and observation can point you in the right direction, but it can’t get you to God or His Son. Science can teach us of the Genetic Code but it can know nothing of the Genetic Coder. Science can gaze at the stars and conceive of the Big Bang that began all things in the beginning, but it cannot know of the One who called all things out of nothing by His Word.

For that one must have the Word. The prophet Micah pointed to Bethlehem and the star confirmed it. There they found the Child with His mother, no longer in a manger, now in a house. Filled with joy, the bowed down and worshipped Him with their gifts of gold, incense, and myrhh.

They came seeking a king; they encountered the King of kings. They came because of a star; they encountered the Morning Star. They came as wise men; they encountered the One who is God’s Wisdom come down from above. They came seeking a child; they encountered God’s Child, His only-begotten Son, the Savior of all. They came having seen a light in the heavens; they encountered the One who is the Light and Life of all.

God’s pointers are all around us, if we dare to look. The Divine Suspect has left His fingerprints all over His creation. The heavens declare the glory of God, the skies proclaim the works of His hands. Through telescope and microscope, wise men still seek Him, not knowing whom they seek or why. Stars can bring you to Jerusalem, but the Word must guide you to Bethlehem. Reason and observation can bring you to the threshold, but only God’s revelation in His Son can bring you through the door where Christ is mangered for you in the water of Baptism, the mouth of the preacher, the bread and wine of the Supper.

2Pet. 1:19 And we have the prophetic word made more sure. You will do well to pay attention to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.

Herod was threatened and wanted to kill the Child. Warned in a dream, the wise men wisely went home by another way. They arrived in the way of King Herod, they returned in the way of King Jesus. Having seen and worshipped the King, the cannot walk the old way again. Old Adam is always threatened when his throne is threatened. Herod must die; Christ must rise. We must decrease, He must increase, each and every baptismal day until the morning dawns and the Day breaks forth in light.

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

In the Name of Jesus,