Epiphany Of Our Lord (Matthew 2:1-12)

Text:  Matthew 2:1-12

Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

In our Gospel reading from today it said that the wise men followed the star in the sky until it stopped.  When they saw the star in the sky stop above a house, they rejoiced. 

Now, before we go any further, we must go down a brief rabbit trail in order to make sure that we are all on the same page.  For those of you who have seen manger scenes set up in front of churches or even in pictures, you will often see the wise men inside the manger with baby Jesus. I don’t mean to be overly nit-picky, but this is not correct.  The wise men never came to the manger to see Jesus.  Now please don’t worry, your salvation is certainly not in jeopardy if you have placed wise men in a nativity set as I have in the past.  However, maybe simply take the wise men out of the manger and place them in another room for they were still journeying towards the manger when Jesus was born.  It wasn’t until several months after Jesus was born that the wise men arrived in Bethlehem to see Jesus who resided in a ‘home’ with Mary and Joseph. 

We now travel back to our Gospel text.

Our Gospel reading also told us that when the wise men came into the house of Mary and Joseph that they knelt down and worshiped

Finally, our Gospel reading from today told us that the wise men offered gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 

The reason why I mention the actions of the wise men is that I want us to take note of the range of their emotions and the intensity of their emotions.  When the star stopped and they came to the end of their journey from the east, it says that they were ‘overwhelmed’ with joy.  In other words, their response was not a subtle happy feeling, but it was an uncontrollable excitement.  They most likely were jumping up and down with an aggressive display of joy.  When they came into the house they literally fell down to ground in reverential worship.  Finally, it says that they offered gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 

Yes, it is rather remarkable to see the actions of the wise men: jumping; falling; worshiping; exuding joy; gratitude; and so forth.  But what produced these reactions?  Why the overwhelming joy, the reverential worship, and the offering of gifts?  It was because they encountered something; actually, not something, but someone. 

Today, we celebrate Epiphany Sunday.  The word ‘epiphany’ means ‘manifestation’ or ‘revelation.’  It is a word that communicates a sudden appearance or a showing forth. It is a word that communicates that something has been presented.

So, since today is Epiphany Sunday, what has been presented and revealed?  What has been shown; what has appeared?  Our Gospel reading for today answers this by telling us that Jesus appeared to the wise men some two thousand years ago; wise men who were gentiles after all.

Now, it would be easy to preach this text to you from the perspective of the wise men’s actions and emotions.  It would be easy for me as a pastor to focus you on the joy, worship, and the gifts of the wise men and say, “Are you joyful today?  Are you worshiping Jesus like the wise men?  Are you giving your gifts to the king?”  The responses of the wise men are indeed very remarkable and indeed very good.  However, for us to focus solely on their responses is to miss the central epiphany of our text, that is, what is causing their responses?

My friends the word joy not only describes the reaction of the wise men but it is also the same word that the Apostle Paul used in Galatians chapter 5 when he talks about the fruit of the Holy Spirit.  Thus, joy is a response or a fruit of the spirit.  Let me explain, if you find yourself lacking joy or you run into someone and they are joyless, the worst thing you can do is say something like this, “Be full of joy.”  The reason being, Joy is not something that we conjure up within ourselves.  Rather, joy is a response, a fruit, a gift; it is something that happens as a person encounters, sees, and hears the good news of Christ.  Beloved Saints, you don’t need to be told to be happy, but you need to hear, see, and receive the Gospel.  You need to see the Cross, for at the cross, your sins, your despair, your hopelessness have been crucified.  You need to see and hear the words, “By the blood of Christ your sins have been atoned for and you are cleansed by the blood of the lamb.”  Yes, the wise men’s joy came after they saw the house where Jesus was.  Our joy comes about after we hear and see Christ.   Furthermore, your joy does not validate the Gospel in anyway; it is a response that comes forth from the message that Jesus is for you; that Jesus died for you, that Jesus lived for you, that Jesus rose for you, and that Jesus is coming back for you.  Joy is an assurance that your soul has been made right with God through Christ.  Joy knows that the circumstances of life may not improve, but in the midst of your circumstance that you have the certainty that Christ has been revealed to you and for you in the Word and Sacraments.

The wise men also worshiped the Christchild too.  They dropped and bowed in worship towards Jesus.  Worship my friends for us as Christians is always done in a response to seeing, hearing, and receiving the Gospel.  Pagan worship is always the opposite.  Pagan worship teaches us that one must worship a god in order to receive blessings or to see some sort of epiphany.  The wise men saw Jesus, then they worshiped.  The same is true for you and I right here and right now. 
Yes, Christian worship is always done in the context of being given to first.  Christ was revealed to the wise men some 2,000 years ago, and today—and every Sunday—the Gospel is revealed and delivered to you from the Bible and the body and blood of Christ.  Thus, your worship of God does not initiate God to work in your lives.  God does not need your effort in worship.  Rather God does the effort in coming to you and me.  We don’t worship in order to receive the Gospel and God’s gifts.  We don’t worship in order to get God to reveal Himself to us.  No, we worship because Christ became flesh.  We worship because we have been given to.  We worship as we pray, as we sing, and so forth because of the Son of God who came for us!

It is exactly the same thing when it comes to the wise men giving gifts.  The gifts of the wise men were not an admission price to get a glimpse of the King of Kings; the Christchild.  The gifts were not an appeasement offering in order to obtain a sneak peak of Jesus.  No, they saw the Savior; they were led to the Savior, and their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh were a response to the epiphany of Jesus. 

Even though our Gospel reading today seems to focus a lot on the wise men and their actions, the real focus on this text is the Christchild and the fact that the Christchild was not hidden, but revealed to the wise men; revealed to gentiles.  Indeed, Jesus was revealed as a savior to all the nations. The visit of the shepherds to Jesus was the first revelation of Christ to the Jews.  The visit of the wise men was the first revelation of Christ to the gentiles.  Indeed, you and I have a Savior that was revealed to all nations, and continues to be revealed with you here in this church through the blessed Word and Sacraments.

Christ is for you my friends.  He has been revealed to you for your salvation and the salvation of the world.

May the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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