Epiphany of Our Lord (observed)
01 January 2012
St. John's, Chicago, IL
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Well, here we are -- 2012. This is it. After all, it is "in the stars" or at least in the Mayan calendar, that something big is going to happen that will end the world. Right?
Well, that is what you get when you have a bunch of pagans staring at the heavens and making up their own meaning for what they see. (And, arguably, that isn't even the only logical meaning of the end of that calendar. It could have simply been where they decided to stop on that particular calendar.) Nevertheless, looking to the stars without God will never provide the answers to faith and life.
So where are those answers? The Word of God, of course. When the Wise Men left their homes in the east, it is not likely that they just got out some star charts and looked at each other and said, "Hey, let's go to Palestine!" As learned men, it is more likely that they had read and heard the Word of the Lord given through Moses: "A star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel." (Numbers 24:17) These men studied stars and dreams and likely had read wisdom from many cultures around, including Hebrew Scriptures that had some copies scattered since the exile in Babylon.
Whether they knew the Word of God before their journey, or not, these Wise Men would soon be familiar. The expedition may have begun out of scholarly intrigue or eccentric interest, but the Holy Spirit was using the opportunity to proclaim the birth of Jesus Christ.
You don't always begin your journeys with God's Word, either. Like a toddler, you can have an independent, "I do it myself" attitude. And like a toddler, that doesn't work so well for you. You want to rely on your own wisdom, your own knowledge and experience. You might think you can do just fine with your straight-A records or honor roll grades from school, or your Girl Scout Gold Award or Eagle Scout medal. You may rest on your laurels at work, having risen above the ranks. But that does nothing for your eternal life.
Repent! Do not trust in yourself or your own wisdom. Stop relying on your own "stars" and "dreams" that lead you to trust in yourself or look inside for your strength. Many well-meaning friends will have inspirational sayings or words of encouragement that do just that -- look inside and believe in yourself. Sadly, hell is full of successful people who believed in themselves.
But the kingdom of God gives you free wisdom, a blessing and gift that the Lord gives you to look outside of yourself for encouragement, strength, and most importantly forgiveness, life, and salvation!
The kingdom of God comes to Anna Claire this morning, as God gifts her with wisdom to life everlasting. He has drowned her Old Adam which looks to itself or things of this world for wisdom and joy in life. And He raised up a new creature, given the wisdom of Christ, in faith, over which she can always "rejoice with exceedingly great joy!"
In Baptism, just as with Anna, you have been made wise unto salvation, with true wisdom that comes only through Jesus Christ in His Holy Word. The Lord God poured out His saving flood on you, and rescued you, delivering holy wisdom, which is nothing more than saving faith. A gift from God to receive the righteousness He gives you in Christ.
Through the events of today's Gospel, the truth was testified that this was no ordinary search for earthly wisdom or a trek to find a political king. These wise men traveled great distances and then knelt and worshiped the Holy Child. The Holy Spirit gave them faith in true wisdom to see and believe in the Lord Jesus. He changed them from believing in their stars and dreams and themselves into men touched by the presence of God Almighty in the flesh. And when the wicked King Herod tried to trick them into betraying the location of the Christ Child, the Lord gave them faith and courage to obey God rather than men.
Today we rejoice with exceedingly great joy that the Lord Jesus has sent His Spirit to call, gather, enlighten, and sanctify you. You have the joy of knowing He has placed the Star of His Word in your life, to draw you to Himself. You have the joy of knowing that as your King, and Priest, and Sacrifice, Jesus has died and rose for you, and thus has granted you true wisdom. You have the joy of receiving the One who has been born King of the Jews, the One whose cross would bear witness to that same truth as He gave Himself for you. You have joy that "from ... Bethlehem...in the land of Judah...[came] one who would shepherd [His] people Israel."
Yes, you rejoice with exceedingly great joy, as the Holy Spirit has given you wisdom and given you faith in the Christ who has shepherded and saved you, and lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.