Sermon: The Epiphany of Our Lord
Pastor Sean Willman
Good Shepherd Pleasant Prairie
7 January 2018
We heard on Christmas Day that God spoke his creative Word into the darkness saying, “let there be light” and his word accomplished his purpose: The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Once again there was light, and his life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.
Epiphany is celebration of light! That the light of Christ has come. And so our Old Testament reading says, “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.” And our Gospel reading records the Magi 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.” The light of God’s creative and life-giving Word entered into the world in the incarnation of the Son of God, Jesus Christ, and that has changed everything! There’s been an epiphany. Darkness has been penetrated and overcome by the light of Christ as it was first at the creation of the world, only this time he went into the darkness himself. He entered the deep darkness of our sin that covered the earth as he hung on the cross. He took the darkness of our sin upon himself, died, and emerged, arose so that it shall never again obscure, overcome, or prevail against the light. Wherever the light of God’s word, the light of Christ shines, there’s simply no darkness there. Of course people still walk in darkness. They still live in ignorance and unbelief. They still choose to dwell in darkness because their deeds are evil. But not you. You are filled with, and you shine with the light of the Christ. You aren’t the light, but his light fills you like a lamp and shines out of you into the darkness of this world and onto everyone around you.
The Magi followed the light of the star and the light of God’s Word, and they were led to the Christ Child. There they worshiped him and presented their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh- gifts fit for a king. Jesus is a king, but he isn’t like the kings of men. He rules in self-sacrificial service, humility and love. Not with the power of men but the authority of God. Imagine how surprised these three men were to show up, ready to worship a king and find a child. A helpless, vulnerable, weak baby boy. Yet, they believed the Word of God that they’d been given, that indeed this child was the king of the Jews.
In the same way, the light of the Word of God has guided and directed you. Not to follow a star and find the babe of Bethlehem. Not to the throne of an earthly king. But instead to this place. To the house of God. And to the altar of Christ’s sacrifice for you. Where your king’s Word comes to you in lowly form of a human preacher. And his flesh and blood are present in the lowly forms of bread and wine. All so that you may receive his light and worship him. You see the Magi, guided by a star, came looking for the one born King of the Jews, and in Christ Jesus they found him. They found the king who had come to redeem the world. And not just the Jews but all people, for they themselves were gentiles. And finding him they worshipped him and they served him with kingly gifts.
That was their purpose. And truly, yours is no different. We talk so much about what God’s purpose in life for us is. Or about how he has a plan for us. And this is good. But only if we then confess that God’s plan for us is to lead us to himself and then for us to worship and serve him. You see he comes to you in the light of his Word and Sacraments, by the power of his Holy Spirit, and creates faith in you- he redeems you, that’s what Christ does. That’s his purpose for you and that’s how it’s accomplished. Not by any work of your own. Not by any “soul searching” but through the forgiveness of sins by the Word of God. And then you too in love of God bring your finest gifts to him- your best, your own treasures. You bring to him yourself, that which he created in order to worship him in his house and serve him everywhere with the gifts he gives to you.
Epiphany isn’t flashy. We like to think that it is, what with three mysterious guys following a star, and we like to think that God will lead us in flashy ways too. Yet, it turns out that he comes to you in the way that he’s always come: by his Word. The same way he came at the foundation of the world, and the way he came in Christ. And for the same purpose- to give you life. And so dear friends, let us do as the Magi did that day, and the church of God has always done, let us follow the light of God’s Word to the place where it rests. In his Word and Sacraments in the House of the Lord. Let us worship and bow down with all the children of light to praise and adore him. To receive afresh his light, love, and forgiveness, that we may not walk in darkness, but in the light of our redeemer. Amen.