A myHT Fortress

Monday, January 4, 2010

Wise Unto Salvation: A Homily for Epiphany

Matthew 2:1-12

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

“Made wise unto salvation.” That’s what you are: made wise unto salvation.

These Magi – these “Wise Men” as we call them, here learn that they cannot rely only on their own wisdom. Charts of the stars, notes on astrology, and great books would not be able to clarify what this amazingly important event was, and who it was about. Sure, they may have had copies of Hebrew Scriptures in Babylon, since the time of Daniel and his generation in exile. That could give a starting place, but look where they end up: in Jerusalem, at the palace of Herod the Great.

Could the royal advisors of a corrupt and wicked king assist them? Could superstitions, military might, or simple historians provide the guidance and wisdom they needed in finding He who has been born King of the Jews? No. Not at all.

So if they could not rely on their own wisdom, how were they to find the Lord? The answer is simple: He gave them an epiphany! Epiphany? “Epiphany” comes from Greek, and means “to manifest,” “to reveal.” God revealed to them the Savior of the nations.

We try to be wise on our own. We hate relying on others. But man’s wisdom is nothing. “For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Cor. 1:25.) It is a quality of sinful humans to take pride in our supposed wisdom, yet here we are, dumbfounded and clueless about how God would save us – if it were not for the Wisdom of Christ Himself, revealing Himself as God-in-the-flesh.

Sherlock Holmes is a classic case of a human relying on his own wisdom. He takes great pride in his powers of deduction, using everything he has ever learned and observed, to solve the most complex and evil designs. No credit for God here. The great detective, in his understanding, does not get sidetracked by things spiritual. While the stories are quite entertaining, and make for great fictional adventure, Holmes pushes God-given wisdom out of the picture. “Elementary!” he exclaims, as he believes human reasoning and wisdom have saved the day.

These Magi from the east had something far greater than human wisdom to guide them. The Lord placed a star and led them to follow it, and He used His Word to provide godly wisdom. He gifted them with the wisdom of Christ, that they might find God become Man, in the flesh of the holy Baby resting on His Mother’s lap, for them – even as He gifts you now, that you might find God become Man, in the flesh of His Word and Holy Supper, given for you!

There is the beauty of it all! The scene: these great, powerful men, on their knees, worshiping a Baby. Before the Child are laid treasures: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Like the MasterCard commercial, one could say: Chests of gold coins: $500,000. Jars of frankincense: well over $500,000. Containers of myrrh: well over $500,000. God in His infinite wisdom becoming man to rescue you from sin, death, and hell: priceless!

Now there are many who would make the biggest deal about how these men come and give gifts to the Christ Child, but they have it all backwards. The amazing thing is that this Christ Child is giving them gifts! By coming in the flesh, He is opening the treasures of God’s grace and mercy, and ultimately eternal life, to these foreigners.

These Wise Men were Gentiles, like you and me. That meant that they could only come so close to the Temple. They were not allowed to be included in the liturgies of receiving God’s gifts of forgiveness and mercy. They could only be taught about it in the Gentile courts of the Temple, if they ever were to go there. You would have been in the same predicament if you lived in the first century. You could hear God’s Word taught, but not receive His other means of grace.

Christ reveals Himself as God, and changes it all. As He keeps God’s Law, suffers, dies, and rises again, He is the Light to lighten the Gentiles. He opens the kingdom of heaven to all believers. He fulfills His Word, so that now, both Jew and Gentile can receive Him in all of His means of grace, in Word and Sacrament! Now you can rejoice exceedingly that the Lord does not keep you at arm’s length, but welcomes you to receive His gifts, and thus receive Him!

And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.

Today you go into [His] house and [see] the Child – our Savior – the King of kings with His Church, and you fall down and worship Him. This is an example of why Lutherans usually kneel at the communion rail. This is a picture of why many of our parishes over the years have had kneelers in the pews, that we may fall down on our knees and worship Him. As you sit in the pew and hear His Gospel, and again as you kneel at His rail, opening [His] treasures, [He offers you] gifts – Baptism, Absolution, Gospel and Supper!

Many people in our world still think they can rely on their own wisdom. You follow their lead and slip into the same mindset. But our Lord Jesus is Wisdom in the flesh. His Holy Spirit brings you to the realization that your own wisdom is completely worthless before God. He brings you to repentance and then lifts you up with the wisdom of God. He gives you His gifts to make you wise unto salvation!

Thanks be to God, who has called you out of the foolishness of this world, and revealed Himself to you in the person of His Son. Rejoice with exceedingly great joy, over the good news of great joy which shall be for all people! For our King of kings gives you His gifts, making you wise unto salvation! Amen!

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