Sunday, January 07, 2018

Sermon: Epiphany (transferred) - 2018

7 January 2018

Text: Matt 2:1-12 (Isa 60:1-6, Eph 3:1-12)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

The inventor Thomas Edison conducted thousands of experiments before getting a successful lightbulb.  It must have been a cause of great joy when, at last, his invention lit up and stayed glowing.  One can only wonder if he knew then just how much this invention would not just change the world, but revolutionize the lives of billions of people from that time forth.

Similarly, one has to wonder if the Magi realized the revolution happening in the world by the coming of the boy King whom they visited, following the light of a star in order to come and worship Him, to bring gifts, and then to bring this good news to the Gentiles, who would grow to be billions of people through the passing of millennia.

The light of the Christ Child coming into the world was something spoken of by the prophets, including Isaiah, whose words of revelation resound among us still: “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.”  For the prophet understands the fallen world, our struggle against sin, death, and the devil, the “darkness” that ravages the earth, and the “thick darkness” that plagues the peoples. 

It is as though our sins rolled back the creation from the command of the very Word of God: “Let there be light!” and falling back into chaos with our rebellious flesh defiantly demanding: “Let there be darkness!”

Since the fall in Eden, dear friends, we have been struggling with the darkness: the darkness of our souls, the darkness of the hearts of man, the darkness of confusion and brokenness, and the darkness of the tomb.

But God did not leave us in the dark.  Once again, by means of the Word of God, He commanded anew: “Let there be light!”  For the light came into our world in Jesus Christ: Light of Light, very God of very God.”  For “in Him was life, and the life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

The “darkness has not overcome it,” dear friends, for “the true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.”

This is why our Christian art depicts the magi visiting the Holy Family at the manger, when in fact, their visit was maybe a couple years later, not in a stable but in a house.  The point is that the visit of the magi, led by the star, is closely connected to the birth of Jesus.  Furthermore, it took them a long time to travel by the light of the star from the east to the place where the prophecy of Isaiah, “Arise, shine, for your light has come” was fulfilled in the infant body of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Notice how the theme of light illuminates our readings today, even as the word “epiphany” means a “shining forth” or a “revealing.”  It is like then Moses came down from the mountain and his unveiled face shone with the reflected light of God, or later, when the Lord Jesus figuratively takes off his veil at the mountain of transfiguration, and Peter, James, and John will see Him dazzling with light in His full glory.

The other theme in our readings, in addition to the shining of light to overcome the darkness, is the fact that this light is not only there to illuminate the chosen people of Israel.  For in Christ, God chooses His people from among all peoples, all nations, the Jews and the Gentiles, children of Abraham whether by blood or by adoption.

To St. Paul, this was a “mystery… made known… by revelation.”  The word “revelation” is literally an “unveiling.”  When the veil is removed, the light shines, exposing the reality of who Jesus is: the Savior of the entire world!  As St. Paul elaborates: “This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, partakers of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.”

And St. Paul was given grace “to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone” so that we have “boldness and access” – access to God that was formerly denied to us in our dark past – “with confidence through our faith in Him.”

The coming of the magi is a clear fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy, “the wealth of the nations” – “nations” being the same word translated as ‘Gentiles’ – “shall come to you. A multitude of camels of Midian and Ephah; all those from Sheba shall come.  They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall bring good news, the praises of the Lord.”

This good news radiating from the Word Made Flesh, this manifestation of the living God in the form of the baby King of the Jews is not only for the Jews but also for the far-off Gentiles.  He has come to redeem all the peoples who formerly lived in darkness.  The Word that declared, “Let there be light” in the beginning is making a new beginning, coming into our world as light, and the world has come to worship Him, our uncreated Light, by the light of a created star.

The magi offer creaturely gifts to the Creator, gifts that ultimately already belong to Him.  This is the same thing that we do, dear friends, making offerings to our Lord even though He lacks nothing, and already owns all things.  In giving, the magi were not enriching Jesus, but were enriching themselves.  For this was an act of love, of worship, of faith, and of the confession before God and man that this baby is indeed both God and Man, and He is a King to be worshiped!

And no matter how the forces of darkness scowl and rage and lash out, they cannot extinguish this light!  Herod wanted to know where to find the Child so as to snuff out His life, but Herod’s dark mission would fail.  For “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” 

Not even the darkness that enveloped the dying Jesus on the cross could extinguish this light.  Not even the darkness of the tomb in which our Lord’s body was laid could snuff it out.  Not even the darkness of our own sin and the dark lies of the devil can extinguish the Light of Christ!  For the Light came into the world to destroy the darkness of sin by atoning for it, to obliterate the darkness of death by vanquishing it, and to eradicate the darkness of Satan by conquering him.

And just as the still, small voice bears the Word of God, and just as a single candle chases away the darkness, so too does the tiny baby Jesus – His very presence in our dark world – forever deliver the brightness of the Gospel to us, to all peoples, to Jews and Gentiles, even as we reflect back a small portion of His light and His love in our gifts.

Edison’s tiny bulb forever broke the hold of darkness over the life of mankind in this material world.  But the baby Jesus is the eternal “light of the world, the light no darkness can overcome,” whose light brings us into eternal light and life with God, so that you, dear brothers and sisters, “shall see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and exult.”

“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.”  Amen.

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

No comments: