The Epiphany of Our Lord
“Guided by a Star”
January 6, 2019
Sermon Text: Matthew 2:1-12
Peace be unto you from our revealed Messiah, Christ Jesus. Amen.
Dearly Beloved of the Lord,
I think we have all been in the situation where… out of a fairly large group of people… we were the last to know something… the last to be aware of something… to be privy to some information. And when we eventually find out and share the same with others declaring “Who knew?” … all of a sudden people start raising their hands or otherwise acknowledging… admitting… that they did… that they already knew.
Thankfully, in most cases, what counts is knowing, whenever that may take place. Earlier for some… later for others… but still knowing. This certainly holds true in regard to the Christian faith. It holds true in our knowing Jesus.
Today we celebrate one of the major festivals of the church year – The Epiphany of Our Lord – where the revelation, manifestation and attestation begin in earnest.
Certainly… in it all… of it all… we just celebrated one of the most pivotal events in human history… the incarnation of our Lord… the very Son of God actually coming from on high and becoming one of us… to take up our cause… to take up our cross and be our Savior. Such is the celebration of Christmas.
And yet, how key and crucial is this Season of Epiphany as we have the joy and privilege of seeing again… hearing again… how God wonderfully and powerfully revealed to us this Savior… our Savior!
How in a wonderful series of events… we and all mankind are shown beyond a shadow of a doubt that it is Jesus… only Jesus. That we need not and should not wait for another… look for another… seek another.
Such is the celebration of Epiphany… how mankind would come to know that the Child born in Bethlehem to a virgin named Mary is truly the Christ… the Anointed One… upon Whose shoulders rested the weight and the fate of all mankind.
And of all people, it is some Gentiles… some noblemen… “wise men” or “Magi” as they are called… who are among the first to whom is revealed the Savior of the World.
They are among the first to be guided by a star… among the first to faithfully and diligently follow that star… to search for the “One who has been born king of the Jews.”
Who knew? They knew…. even though they were Gentiles. They knew that the Baby they sought after… the Baby they worshiped and adored… the Baby at whose feet they laid their treasures… was the long-awaited King… indeed, King of kings and Lord of lords.
Who knew? They knew guided by a star… both a gloriously divine light in the sky and, as with us… the gloriously divine light of God’s Word.
The fact of the matter is, the Magi knew Jesus was King because, quite frankly, God told them. They knew God’s Word. They knew the prophecy. They knew that which was divinely recorded by the prophets of old and what is more… they believed it.
So much so that they left their homeland and by all indications traveled both a great distance and over a great amount of time… confident that this star would lead them to the Holy One. They trusted God’s Word and they were not disappointed…. as we will never be disappointed.
And so it is that the Magi joined the ranks of Mary and Joseph, Elizabeth and Zechariah, and a group of shepherds in knowing that the Christ had come. Who knew? They knew…. a small group of faithful Jews and yes, Gentiles. This group representing all of mankind for indeed, Christ came for all and He will die for all.
But let us not forget that there were others who knew as well. Herod for one… Herod who was supposedly “King of the Jews” knew, but only after these foreign noblemen had told him. That must have been embarrassing!
And then Herod hastily calls together all of his theologians… the chief priests and teachers of the law who have to tell him what Holy Scripture has to say about where the Christ was to be born… that is… in Bethlehem in Judea, for as it says, “out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.” Yes, these Jews knew.
As will other Jewish officials and Gentiles as time goes on. After Herod “the Great” (as he was called) dies, another Herod… called “Herod Antipas” comes on the scene and He likewise will know. He is the one who will put John the Baptist to death and to whom Pontius Pilate sends Jesus just prior to our Lord’s crucifixion.
Oh yes, Herod Antipas knew… Pontius Pilate knew…. as did Caiaphas and Annas and the entire Jewish Sanhedrin including many Pharisees and Sadducees. They knew.
What did these Jews know? What did many Gentiles like Pontius Pilate know? Well, my friends, they knew more than we, many times, give them credit for. Having seen the miracles and/or having heard the very Word of the prophets or that which came from our Lord’s own lips, they knew that Jesus… this Jesus… was like none other.
Whatever the variation and extent of their knowledge, they also knew that Jesus… this Jesus… was a threat to them… from the time He was born until the time He died…. they knew in their warped minds and blackened hearts that Jesus was a threat… that Jesus… this Jesus… would lead to their demise.
And they could not have been more mistaken. They could not have been more off track… off course… which is what sin does. It takes us away from the truth and the One who is the truth… as the away and the life.
Christ was never a threat to anyone. He would never… will never… lead to anyone’s demise. On the contrary, He came to save. He came to shepherd His people… to lead them beside still waters. In Him there is help, hope, comfort and peace. In Him there is life that we might have it abundantly and eternally.
What separates these Jews and Gentiles who reject Jesus as their King and try to kill Him…. from those Jews and Gentiles who will embrace Him… who will worship and adore Him… then and now?
Faith… and this by the work of the Holy Spirit… to all who do not reject the Spirit or the One to Whom alone the Spirit points… to all who will not turn their backs to the star… their backs to the glorious light, guiding light of God’s Word.
Mary and Joseph, Elizabeth and Zacharias, the shepherds, the Magi, along with elderly Simeon and Anna the prophetess, John the Baptist, the disciples of our Lord, all of His faithful followers including Mary Magdelene, Mary and Martha and their brother Lazarus, countless men, women and children who were healed, fed or raised from the dead, along with Zacchaeus, Nicodemus who himself was a member of the Jewish Sanhedrin as was Joseph of Arimathea, St Paul who once persecuted our Lord and His followers, and St. Luke who was a well-educated and learned physician… to name just a few.
They knew… for to them the star was made manifest. God’s Word made manifest. Christ Himself made manifest. His glory and might… made manifest. And they embraced it all. Many died a martyr’s death for the same. All died declaring “Jesus is Lord” with their very last breath.
They believed the Gospel News… lived the Gospel News… the Good News of Jesus Christ. They worshiped and adored Him. They left their houses and homeland for Him… their families and occupations to be with this Jesus…. to give their very lives… their all… all of their time, treasures and abilities… for this Jesus… to this Jesus. Why? Because nothing else matters! Not then… not now.
Who knew? They knew. And when all is said and done… at the end of time… on the last day… if the question were to be asked “Who knew?” … may we be among those who raise not only our hands, but also our hearts and voices in praise to the One whom we have come to know, confess, worship and adore…. for we, too, are being graciously guided by a star… to our Savior and soon… to our heavenly home with Him and all of the saints. Amen.
May the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus, unto life everlasting. Amen.
“Guided by a Star” 1/6/18 The Rev. Mark H Hein, St. Paul’s Ev. Lutheran Church, Lockport, IL.