Sermon for Epiphany

I had trouble writing a sermon that wasn’t boring. Judging by the confused looks I got from the congregation this morning, I succeeded. Read it, if you dare, after the jump.

Herod was not interested in the star. He didn’t care even a little bit that there might be something wonderful, powerful, or new. He wanted the darkness.  He wanted the skies to be the way they always were – shining down on his kingdom with no news, no surprises, no attempts to displace him.

For Herod, the light of that star was a very bad thing indeed. Those who do evil hate the light. They dwell in darkness, in the shadows. Adam and Eve tried to hide themselves in the underbrush. They tried to get away from God. Jonah went to sea to get away from God’s command. Nicodemus comes to Jesus by night and is told. The light has come into the world, and men loved darkness, rather than light because their deeds were evil. Whoever does evil hates the light and will not come into the light for fear his deeds will be exposed.

At Christmas we tell the children that Santa knows whether they’ve been bad or good. Our Lord sees even in the darkness.  Even in the darkness of Jerusalem all those years ago, when Mad King Herod ruled with an iron fist, even then, the skies obeyed God’s command, not Herod’s. The star shone forth, announcing with its light the one who is the light of the world.

The wise men see, understand and follow the light. We try to hide from the light, to keep the secret sins from being exposed. But, like Adam and Eve hiding in the bushes, God knows. He knows the dark secrets: Not only the things you do in the dark, when no one is around to see it, but the things you think in the dark recesses of your sinful mind and heart. He knows it all.  The Star shines, the light has come, and the deeds of darkness will be exposed by the light.

Where are you? Are you hiding in the bushes? Have you eaten of the tree of which God told you not to eat? Have you gone into your dark places again to do those things which you dare not speak of? Are you, like mad king Herod, going to try and deny, deceive, and destroy the light? Herod was dead within the year. His kingdom was divided and passed to his sons. The foolishness of hiding in the darkness.  We try it, but God knows. The darkness never works. All it does is give us a place to feed the sin with fear and loathing for God.  It makes us not only break his law, and despise his word, but hate and fear the one who is the light.

Whoever loves the truth comes to the light, so that his deeds can be seen to have been done in God.

The star shone forth in the heavens because the light has come. The wise men are proof positive that Jesus came, not just for the chosen people, but for all nations.  The wise men were not Jews, they were not of the house of Israel. They were foreigners, strangers. They didn’t even know the prophecy of Bethlehem. And yet, God gave to them the knowledge, the insight, and the faith to follow that light, to go to Bethlehem, and to give gifts fit for a king. They did not hide in the darkness. They welcomed the light, because they knew that God was the one who gave it.

If God gives light, then there is no darkness at all. There is no where to hide with the dark secrets of the heart. Jesus came and brought into the light of God’s justice all the dark secrets – even yours. And then, he took them on himself. He went to the cross with your darkness, with your sin, with all the hidden faults. And the sin that makes you so worthy of death and an eternity of darkness was swallowed up on in the darkness of Jesus death.

How do you know that this salvation is for you? How can you know all these years later, that this isn’t just some cosmic joke, or perhaps local legend for a select few? Because of the star. The star is God’s promise that this gift is for you and your children, whether you are descended from Abraham and Jacob, or from Canaan. No matter who you are, the promise is for you. The star shone over the whole world. And so God’s grace reaches to the ends of the earth, not just to Arabia and Persia and Rome and Tarshish, but to Wheatland and Douglas and Torrington too.

God’s mercy shines in the star over the whole world because Jesus came to save the whole world – and that includes you. It would have done no good for God to send his son to suffer and die for you if he did not also give you the means to hear about the gift, and to receive the promise. If Jesus had just stayed in Bethlehem, we might ask, “is this salvation for me?” So many years away, so many miles across the globe, such different ancestry than he has? But look. The wise men come and worship, they fall down before him – they are not of Abraham, they are not from Israel. God gave the star so they could see it – so that you would know that the salvation Jesus brings is yours.  That is why he sends preachers to bring this good news to you, to wash in his name at the font, to feed at his command at the table, to carry out his orders to absolve you of your sin, to preach the good news of great joy, the news of the savior, not just in Bethlehem, but given to the world.

Even today, his word goes out. “The Lord gave the word, great was the company of the preachers.” Jesus still comes to you today, not in mighty palaces. Not in the halls of power, or the great vaults of financial institutions, or with the might of many armies. He does not come though those things – he comes in his holy church. The little flock of those who have stepped into the light at his command, the people whom he has called by his word, and who have, by His Spirit’s power, repented of their sin, and believed that word. Those who still sin, it is true, but whose life is being illumined by the light of Christ. The Lord brings to you the good news – the savior is here. He is for you! Just as he was for those wisemen. Oh come let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the lord our maker. And let us receive from him the salvation he gives. The salvation that is for you.

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