Sunday of Epiphany – Pr. Anderson sermon
St. Matthew 2:1-12 “The Star of Jacob is Revealed”
January 7, 2024 | Christ Lutheran Church
In Nomine Iesu
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Lord God, heavenly Father, You have given us the light of Your holy Word, the guiding star that leads us to the Christ-child: Send, we beseech You, Your Holy Spirit into our hearts, that we may receive this light and make use of it for our salvation, and that we, like the wise men, when they were seeking the star, may not be afraid because of any hardship or peril, but put all our trust in Your only-begotten Son as our only Savior, devote our earthly possessions to the advancement of Your kingdom, and in all things serve Him, Your only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever. Amen. (Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary, by Veit Dietrich, p. 149)
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. (Rom. 1:7, etc.)
The sermon text for today is taken from the 2nd chapter of the Gospel according to St. Matthew. We read selected verses in Jesus’ name:
When [the wise men] saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 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. And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.
These are Your words, heavenly Father. Sanctify us by Your truth, Your Word is truth. Amen. (Joh. 17:17)
In Christ Jesus, who was revealed to wise men by a guiding star, who is revealed to all nations in His Holy Word and is our hope, dear fellow redeemed:
When I’ve done a magic card trick for little children, the first thing I’m asked is, “How did you do that?! Can you show me?! Card tricks are so fascinating and they are usually very easy to do. As the trick of sleight of hand is used over “actual magic” it is that magical aspect that will have children excited every time. Even when you tell them that a “magician never reveals his secrets,” they continue to guess, and they want to see the trick done over and over again to figure it out. The problem in revealing what is happening in the trick, the trick is then no good. The fun is over. There are things that we enjoy being revealed to us. We like to see what is inside of our Christmas presents. We love seeing the end of T.V. shows. As the angel Gabriel and the heavenly hosts revealed to shepherds that the Christ child was born for them, God reveals Christ to others. That is what Epiphany means, to reveal. God did not want to hide His gift of salvation for the world. The Star of Jacob is revealed to the Gentiles and the star of Jacob is revealed for you.
“Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, 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 Day of Epiphany is intriguing because we always have so many questions as to what is happening. Who are the wise men? Why did they learn about the Jews to know to look for a star? What was the star? Some of these questions we will never know. We have ideas as to why on this Epiphany, men came from afar to worship the infant Jesus. These wise men are thought to have come from Babylon, Persia, or as far as Arabia. Many think Babylon because that is where the Jews were taken into captivity. The thought is Daniel taught the scholars there as he was a wise man in the Babylonian court.
As he trained them in the Scriptures, they then looked to the Scriptures for the star. “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near: a star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel” (Numbers 24:17). There are many who believe that this is a miraculous event. The star showed itself to the wise men and they followed it. Others believe that this star was an alignment of stars and planets that made a very bright light in the sky. Whatever it may be, what is clear is how the wise men knew this would happen. They knew just like Israel. They knew from God’s Word.
As the wise men followed the star and arrived in Jerusalem. They went to the source that should know all about this great king. The reactions were not joy. “When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: ‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a Ruler who will shepherd My people Israel.’” The current king was loyal to Rome and only cared about his power. Prior to the arrival of the wise men, he had killed one of his wives and a few of his children. Jerusalem knows of his evils, so they are alarmed.
“Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, ‘Go and search diligently for the Child, and when you have found Him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship Him.’” His response looks sincere, but Herod has formulated a plan. He wants to snuff out this king. The good news for all, but for those who love themselves, the grace of God has no meaning in their earthly life. Scripture does tell us that this is a joyous moment. The evils of hell are no match for God. As one king has evil in his heart David prophesies about this moment in history. “May the kings of Tarshish and of the coastlands render him tribute; may the kings of Sheba and Seba bring gifts! May all kings fall down before him, all nations serve him!” (Psalm 72:10-11)
This is how we know that the kings and nations of the earth will bow down and worship Christ. We learn it in the Word of God. This is the crux of this Epiphany. These wise men were very educated and yes God did show them a star in the sky to lead them. Even with the miracles of old the answers that God brings to all people about His will of salvation are found only in His Word. We don’t have to go looking for signs and wonders. We are told not to do this, yet there are many who will only talk about signs and wonders. They say, “If God would just give me a sign in my life, then I will know that He is real.” Any sign that God gives points to His Word. We could go our entire lives without seeing a sign. Does this mean God isn’t real? We do what the wise men did. We read, “And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a Ruler who will shepherd My people Israel.”
“After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother, and they fell down and worshiped Him.” Why would wise men from a distant land have such joy in seeing this infant? This joy reveals the truth, the Word of God, the Gospel message changes hearts! This joy is for Jerusalem and beyond. God’s promise is kept by the sending of His Son. The star of Jacob has been revealed and this king is the salvation of the world. The wise men rejoice greatly because this child born of Mary is their Savior. They worshiped Him not only as the king of all, but as God of all. They have not been left behind!
This is the joy that you also have in the star of Jacob. Scripture reveals to you that you are saved by Christ. You can read and see Christ’s Salvation for you in the gifts that Jesus received. “Then, opening their treasures, they offered Him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.” Gold is fit for a king. Frankincense was used in prayer and Jesus is your mediator. He hears your prayers. Myrrh is used in burials. Though an infant now, Jesus was born an infant to grow up and die on the cross for the salvation of the world. Jesus is the King of kings and the Lord of lords who triumphs over all the evil of the world. The plots of Satan are no match for the will of God. He takes your doubts and points you to His Word where He has kept all of His promises for you. This isn’t a magic trick. The star is revealed so that you see the promise of your salvation fulfilled. Like the wise men you can “rejoice exceedingly with great joy and fall down and worship Him.”
The wise men witnessing God’s promises fulfilled wasn’t just for their pleasure. This is the star of Jacob being revealed for all nations. They were the first Gentiles to come and worship Christ. Many will say that Jesus isn’t for them or that He doesn’t care about them. We see that the opposite is happening. If Jesus was only for the Jews, then these wise men would have had no reason to search for this child. They would have had no reason to be excited for Him or to fall down and worship Him. By worshiping this little child of Bethlehem, the star of Jacob, Scripture points to Jesus as the Savior of all nations. No one has been left to be without their Savior. The gracious will of God reveals the star of Jacob for everyone so they see what He has done for them. He has shown the world His love. When you gather to hear and learn His Word, God reveals to you your response for such love. To fall down and worship Christ who came to save the world from their sins.
Jesus coming into the world to save it is the great revelation of this Epiphany Day. There will be details that we will never know. And like a magic trick, we don’t need to know all the details. The star of Jacob is revealed in God’s Word. It brings you great joy and as Isaiah prophesied, “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you…Lift up your eyes all around, and see; they all gather together, they come to you; your sons shall come from afar, and your daughters shall be carried on the hip” (Isaiah 60:1, 4). When those wise men trekked from afar to see the Christ child, they only had one reason to do it. God tells you He is for you. He did not forget about you. The Son of God was revealed to all, born for all, and died for all, for your redemption. Amen.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost; as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, forevermore. Amen.
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