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The Highest Worship of Light Jesus

January 7, 2017


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The Epiphany of Our Lord                           Mount Calvary Lutheran Church

6 January 2017                                               Omaha, NE


+ Jesu Juva +


Matthew 2:1-12


Good grief! From where did that shining star come? It’s so noon-day-bright-in-the-night! Never seen anything like it before! Must have missed that in the Hebrew Farmer’s Almanac? Who just pulled up to the little Jewish domicile? Oops! Now they’re knocking. How rude! Don’t they know that mamma and the Baby need some quiet time? Joseph too. You know how it is with a newborn at home. Not too long ago there were dozens of ragged, filthy, Hebrew shepherds barging in from the fields at midnight, bombarding and besieging the stable with all their sheep (as if it wasn’t crowded enough with all the farm animals) to see the newborn but swaddled Babe in the manger.


Who in the world could it be now? The in-laws? Rabbi Cohen? Mary’s parents? Her siblings? Senior-citizens- ready-for-the-nursing-home-Zechariah-and-Elizabeth with their miracle baby John? Nope. Nada. Not today. None of those folks ride camels. Moreover, they don’t have the fancy pantsy royal garb like these strange foreigners.


These are not the visitors you would suppose. Uninvited. Surprise guests! The least expected. The never imagined. This is all very strange. Unless you pay attention to the Scriptures! Who does that? You’d better! A long time ago God, through Isaiah, predicted it. He said it would happen: “And nations shall come to your light and kings to the brightness of your rising … A multitude of camels shall cover you, the young 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.” (Isaiah 60)  


So, lo and behold, the prophecy is beginning to take shape. Magi (of all people) from the East (of all places) have arrived at Joseph and Mary’s front porch. They Sheldon Cooper it! Politely they tap on the front door: “Mary. Mary. Mary.” You peek out of the peep-hole. It’s shocking! You’re all screaming: “Goyim! Goyim! Goyim!” Or “Goy” for short! Nothing like the Hebrew term that shows contempt and scorn for non-Jews! “Impure, unclean goyim Joseph! They are Gentile-ish, uncircumcised Persians! Wrong nationality! Erroneous ethnicity! Incorrect language. Former oppressors!”


“Don’t open the door Joseph! They’re monstrous-hideous-idolatrous-0ccultic-wrong-ethnicity-outsiders! Star gazers! No, star worshippers! Horoscopers! In-The-Dark-ers! They don’t belong. They don’t fit in.”


Joseph doesn’t listen. He does the unthinkable. He goes right to the door and lets them in! Welcomes them with open arms. Takes their robes. Waters and feeds their camels. Washes their feet. Puts the kettle on. Pours hot tea, serves up apples and honey, sizeable portions of fresh babka, rugelach and macaroons. That’s just the beginning. There’s more. Shockingly more!


The Gentile-ish Magi have traveled hundreds and hundreds of miles, sacrificed a great deal time and money – NO THEY’VE RISKED EVERYTHING — EVERYTHING to be given … A GIFT – the gift of salvation.


Salvation’s gift is staring them in the face of the Baby Jesus. When you see His face you see the face of God. Immanuel, God with us. The radiance of heaven’s full-blown divinity. The true Light! Light of salvation! The tiny Toddler sitting on Mary’s lap is, “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature and he upholds the universe [and even stars] by the word of his power,” (Hebrews 1:3).


Faith, that receives the gift of salvation in Jesus, is fundamentally what it means to “worship.” Faith is the highest worship of God! The Magi have come all this way to be given to! To be served by God-in-the-flesh-Baby Jesus!   Forgiveness, reconciliation, redemption and atonement bestowed FOR THEM in the teeny Tot! Heaven has come down to earth. God reigns to save people from their sin. In the Baby Jesus! This is THE Christmas gift. Not only for the Jew but also for the Goyim, the Gentiles. It is the Gentile Christmas!


You’re taken aback. You’re doing double and triple takes. It was all too mysteriously odd and out of place. You wanted the Magi out! Segregated. You pleaded with Joseph to live in a gated community. You begged Joseph to call the Sanhedrin and get these outsiders off his property! You were of the highest and most religious opinion that Goyim don’t belong to God’s people or God’s kingdom. Baby Jesus, however, receives them! He’s there FOR THEM! He’s come FOR THEM too! They are very precious to Him!


This is the “mystery of Christ.” St. Paul speaks of it in Ephesians chapter 3. The mystery of Christ, “is THAT THE GENTILES [the Goy!] are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel,” (Ephesians 3:4-6).


And that’s precisely St. Matthew’s point. He makes sure that all generations are told the account of the Magi. The gospel is not just for smelly Jewish shepherds watching their flocks by night, but also for the perfumed and polished Persian, star gazing Gentiles! They too are part of the Lord’s church – His hangers on – through faith in Jesus! No doubt the prophet Daniel who served as the presiding officer of the caste of Magi while Israel languished in Babylonian exile, — preached God’s promise of the coming Savior – the promised King of kings and Lord of lords. For both Jew and Gentile!


The tiny house in Bethlehem, over which the star came to rest, and the wise men that worshiped, is a picture of the church in miniature made up of both Jew and Gentile. Mary and Joseph are Israel and the Magi are the Gentiles, the nations of the world. Together they worship the Christ Child who came to save both.

St. Matthew pushes this truth all throughout his gospel. Immediately after the Magi’s visit the infant Messiah flees to Egypt (Mt 2:13-15)! When He returns and begins His public ministry He dares to travel and preach in Gentile territory –Syria and the Decapolis (Mt 4:24-25). In fact, His chosen location of His being the Messiah is deliberately dubbed: “Galilee of the Gentiles” (Mt. 4:15)!


Would you like another example that Jesus is Savior for all? You would? Good! When you read the genealogy of Jesus, it introduces Him as the Savior of Israel, the promised son of David and son of Abraham. However, there are four women included in his family tree (Mt 1:3-6) two of which, Tamar and Rahab are Gentiles! Some Bible scholars even argue that Bathsheba and Ruth are non-Israelite Gentiles. And then, of course, at the end of the gospel Jesus mandates that the Eleven make disciples of all NATIONS (Matthew 28:19)!


Well, the Magi don’t worship the stars anymore. They’ve been repented of that! Turned away from that idolatrous nonsense. Instead, (and this is really delicious), the little Tot that depends on Mary’s care, creates, controls and uses the gleaming light of a star to bring them from their distant home in Persia to the true light – capital “L” Light – Himself!


And what is even more delicious is that He has come to SERVE THEM. To give them the light of salvation! Jesus came not to be served BUT TO SERVE and to give His life as a ransom for all. First and foremost is the Divine Service Jesus gives in this small Jewish home. Let’s call it: Divine Service, “GENTILE SETTING”!


Jesus serves the Magi! That’s why He’s there! The mystery of Christ – Christ for all– hidden for ages is now revealed. Clearly! Unmistakably! Faith, the highest worship of Jesus, naturally leads to adoration in the heart as well as the body! They bow – physically in the Savior’s bodily and physical saving presence. And then they offer Him the sacrifice of prayer, praise, thanksgiving and gifts.


Again, the Magi no longer worship lights in the sky. They worship the true Light. These Persians follow the Scriptures: “Worship the Lord your God and serve Him only!” (Deuteronomy 6:13; Matthew 4:10) Or: “You shall have no other gods before Me,” (First Commandment).


Both those passages apply to Jesus. The Baby is true man but He is also true God. Very God of very God. All the fullness of God dwells in Him. When you see the Baby Jesus you see the face of God. You see God Himself. God in the flesh.


Now, it is one thing for Jesus to be God in the flesh. That’s neat. Really cool. But it’s quite another thing for Jesus to be God in the flesh FOR YOU! Little Baby Jesus is God in the flesh to be God on the cross to save you and ALL PEOPLE no matter what their nationality or ethnicity from all sin, the curse of the law, and God’s eternal wrath.


The Magi were once in darkness – the deep, deep spiritual gloom of sin and death! But now they are in the Light! The majestic Light of God Himself in the flesh of Jesus. In Him there is no darkness at all but only the Light of Salvation. “Jesus Christ is the light of the world. The light no darkness can overcome!” (Evening Prayer)


You too were once in darkness. But now the Light of the world has come. True Light. He gifts you with Himself. He gives Himself into death FOR YOU in His Good Friday death. He didn’t leave you out. He brought you in. He’s churched you too – bestowing His saving name on you in Baptism. Donating all of His Good Friday forgiveness with His Body and Blood in the Lord’s Supper. Divine Service FOR YOU too! You are very precious to Him too!


Your highest worship of Him is faith! Faith believes that Jesus Good Friday-ly died FOR YOU! Faith receives the light of Good Friday’s salvation in Word and Sacrament where Jesus wraps and mangers Himself FOR YOU! His gifts of salvation enliven and enrich you. You can’t help but give Him something in response. You want to. You insist on it. Prayer, praise and thanksgiving. Maybe even some gold or something like it – cash.


We’ll do that in a moment by singing the Offertory and praying in Jesus’ holy Name! Depending on Him all the more as the Savior that He is!


The Magi are changed forever because of Jesus. They saw the Light of God in the face of Jesus. So do you! In the Word and Lord’s Supper Jesus faces you and countenances His divine favor over you! And you are changed forever too! Enlightened by the LIGHT, LIGHT JESUS. Repent-ed and faith-ed in Him!


Happy Epiphany! Happy Gentile Christmas! Happy being churched – gathered around Jesus.


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


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