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Epiphany

Matthew 2:1-12

Rev. Andrew Eckert

The Epiphany of our Lord
Our Savior Lutheran Church  
Stevensville, MT

Fri, Jan 6, 2017 

This would be a good time to speak a word against astrology.  From time to time, Christians are tempted to dabble in this a little.  People may say, What harm can it do?  Look, even the wise men used a star to see the birth of Christ!  It is hard to associate astrology with occult practices because modern astrology seems so silly.  But the basic principles are the same.  Astrology is an effort to find revelation and assurance for the future apart from God.  We Christians should seek truth about our future in Christ and His Word.  Wherever else we are seeking, it is a distraction and potential idol.

If not astrology, what were the wise men doing?  We are not sure.  The text of Scripture is not very clear.  Did they see a particular conjunction that told them that the King of the Jews was born?  That is an attractive theory, but does not seem to fit the text.  Did God create a supernatural star to lead them to Christ?  That seems to fit, yet does not really answer any of the particulars we would like to know. 

For instance, how did the wise men know that the appearance of this star, whatever it was, signaled the birth of the King?  Was its location in certain constellations a clue to His birth?

Perhaps they were clued in by certain Scriptures such as Genesis 49 or Numbers 24.  Perhaps, if they lived in the region in which Daniel lived, they had worked out dates and times from Danielís writings, or had other wisdom from Daniel that alerted them to knowledge of which we are not aware.  Perhaps they had a scroll from ancient writers that we do not have.  Or perhaps they simply received the knowledge by direct revelation from God.  We simply do not know.

We also do not know how long after Christís birth it took them to visit.  The time frame Herod used to kill the Holy Innocents is not helpful, since it assumes a great many things we do not know.  So two years may or may not mean anything.  Today is the thirteenth day after the birth according to our calendar, but that also likely means nothing.

Where exactly were the wise men from?  How many of them came?  Three?  It does not say.  Were they kings?  Did they ride on camels?  None of it is revealed by Matthew, and no other writer records the visits of the wise men.

If God has not revealed the information, then it must not be important to us.  So we can let these things go.  If you have a pious opinion that does not contradict Scripture, that is fine enough for you.  Just remember that is only an opinion.

What is important?  On this day, the Gentiles were drawn to the Christ Child Ė HE drew the Gentiles to worship Him.  The wise men were non-Jews who represented all nations.  For if these Gentiles were brought to Christ, then any Gentiles may come to Christ.

We Gentiles should not have been invited to the party.  This was Christ, a Jew, born to Jews, who would be sent to the lost sheep of the tribe of Israel.  Why should we be invited to bow down before the Christ Child?

But it was always Godís intention that Christ would be a Savior to all nations.  The angel said it was good news for all people, not some.  Isaiah prophesied tonight that it was too small a thing for Christ to only raise up the Jews.  Likewise, as Simeon held the Child in his arms, he said that Christ was a Light to lighten the Gentiles as well as the glory of Godís people Israel.

So we Gentiles are also invited.  We do not come of our own wisdom or discernment.  We should not think that the wise men came because their superior wisdom led them to Bethlehem.  They did not even know the right town.

God led them.  He drew them.  So He has drawn us to Christ.  So He has bent our knees before the One who was born King of the Jews.

If we followed our human intelligence, then we would end up the wrong place.  Reason leads us to Jerusalem, not Bethlehem.  Jerusalem made sense.  Kings lived in that city, not a small town.  David came from Bethlehem, but he was not king there.  The wise men, when they relied on their human reason to tell them where a powerful king would be, went there.

Today human reason leads people to seek all kinds of things.  They may think that they are seeking Christ.  They may think they find Him, when they have not.  They may seek Him in their emotions.  They may seek Him in a rock band, or a sentimental song, or in the friendliness of other people.  They may seek Him in a kind of high they feel in worship.  They may seek Him in church practices that feel familiar because they are like the congregation they grew up in.

These things are not Christ.  But they may seem like Christ to our human reason.  But human reason is like a man who thinks he is wise and knows where he is going, but he is really lost.

On the contrary, God leads us in humble ways.  He brings us to a place that does not seem glorious.  A humble village, a little child Ė these are what the wise men found when they followed the star again and not their reason.  A splash of water, words spoken by an unimpressive man, a bit of wafer and a sip of wine Ė in such things and to such things, God leads us to Christ.

Today we worship and bow down.  We have found the Christ in His House.  It is no more wrong today to bow to Him than it was for the wise men to bow.  It is absolutely appropriate that we present gifts to the King of the Jews who is present here.  He is not absent in our worship, as if we praise a distant God.  No, He is here to give us gifts far more precious than gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

We do not follow signs.  We follow the King in our midst.  He leads us by the brilliant light of His Word, that draws us to the place where His Body and Blood are laid.  No longer the Baby, He is now the crucified, risen, and ascended Lord. 

Yet even in His state of exaltation at the right hand of the Father, He is willing to receive our humble gifts, which He judges acceptable in His sight.  For it is not the value of the gifts we bring, but the faith that offers them that makes them acceptable.

So let us give joyfully to our King.  He has received even us Gentiles as His subjects in His Kingdom of Grace.  We rightly offer Him our words of praise in worship, our works of service for our neighbor, and even our offerings in the plate.

Let us rejoice that He has received us as His, and forever praise His holy Name.  Amen.



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