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The Epiphany of Our Lord

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                                                       The Epiphany of Our Lord

The Epiphany of Our Lord (observed)

January 7, 2018

Three Kings Day

Grace and mercy to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

It is written in Isaiah chapter 60: Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. Thus far the text.

Let us pray: Creator Father, You have revealed You Son, Jesus Christ, to be the Light of the world, to be our Savior.  Grant us this Light so that we may remain in the Light; in the name of Jesus.  Amen.

What is the Epiphany holiday?  It is Three Kings Day (3 kings day).   The day magi from the east followed the star to Jesus.  Epiphany is the day the Wise Men gave gold, frankincense, and myrrh to Jesus.  Epiphany is the first day foreigners worshipped Jesus who is God with us.

This Epiphany Day we hear from the prophet Isaiah.  Now, the first task of a prophet is to correct people for their sins.  The second task of a prophet is to proclaim the kingdom of Christ.  On this Day of the Epiphany of Our Lord, the prophet Isaiah is doing the second task.  Isaiah is proclaiming the kingdom of Christ to us.

Isaiah begins by saying: Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee.

We are unable to recognize the greatness of this treasure called the Gospel.  Its lowly appearance is recognized only by the Holy Spirit.  The Gospel has two strengths: the physical voice and the offense.  The Good News of Jesus is spoken by a pastor in an assembly of Christians.  This is a strength because God is so near He can be heard.  The offense is that there is no requirement except that we believe in Jesus.

The Gospel has two weaknesses also.  The physical voice and the offense.  It is a weakness that the Gospel is put into the mouth of a sinful human being.  God should speak for Himself.  The offense is that my eternal salvation depends upon believing the speech of a sinner or the Words of a Book.  

The Gospel has two weaknesses: the physical voice and the offense.  The Holy Spirit accomplishes God’s work through the lowly voice of a human being but by this same lowliness no one believes.  The Holy Spirit separates the believing from the unbelieving so that sin and death are also removed but folks are offended that they would be damned because of a different faith.  So the Gospel can be heard in the midst of evil just as a light can be seen in the darkness.

2 For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the LORD shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee.

The darkness is associated with the demands of God’s Law.  The Law shows us our darkness but it gives no comfort to a troubled conscience.  The Gospel gives what the Law demands.  What arises is not a great person but God the Lord Himself.  The Lord’s “glory shall be seen” refers to His appearance in the cloud and fire during the Exodus.  Jesus is the Light.  Jesus is the Gospel.

3 And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.

The law of Moses is being repealed and the church is being enlarged far beyond the temple and synagogues.

4 Lift up thine eyes round about, and see: all they gather themselves together, they come to thee: thy sons shall come from far, and thy daughters shall be nursed at thy side.

Lift up your eyes or lift up your heads or lift of your hearts mean the same thing.  In the preface to Holy Communion one of the responses is:  Lift up your heads.  We lift them up to the Lord.  The implication is that the Lord is gathering you and your children to Himself in Holy Communion.

5 Then thou shalt see, and flow together, and thine heart shall fear, and be enlarged; because the abundance of the sea shall be converted unto thee, the forces of the Gentiles shall come unto thee. 6 The multitude of camels shall cover thee, the dromedaries of Midian and Ephah; all they from Sheba shall come: they shall bring gold and incense (think of the Magi bringing gifts to Jesus); and they shall shew forth the praises of the LORD.

Nothing is more joyful for us Christians to hear that many will be saved.  

We are so concerned about our loved ones.  We are concerned because we are told that the church is dying.  We are told the church is passing away before our very eyes both in our country and around the world.  We are told that technology is taking the place of the church.  We are told that sports are taking the place of the church.  What are we to do with our anxieties in this situation?  If these anxieties are yours then you have found your repentance for today.  The apostle Paul says, “cast your anxieties upon the Lord because He is taking care of you” (2Peter 5).  So, let us trust Jesus.

Jesus is the Lord who spoke to Isaiah.  Jesus is the one who promised the church would expand far beyond the walls of Jerusalem and far beyond the borders of ancient Israel.

People are repenting and believing every day in our country and all around the world.  The gates of hell will not stand against you who trust Jesus with your eternal life.  Even your loved ones who do not believe may yet repent and believe.  For all things are possible with this Gospel, this Good News is that Jesus was dead and is now alive.  Jesus is the head of His church.  Jesus is expanding His kingdom.  Jesus forgives you your sins.  Jesus gives you life.

Isaiah depicts your joy when, one day, you will see the multitude coming toward you.  Jesus is doing a mighty work.  Even this morning you saw a foretaste of that multitude.  You saw all of these people come to receive from Jesus.  This gathering is no small thing.  It is the work of God and a reason to rejoice.

Let me conclude with the hymn text of John Morrison from the 18th century and which we will sing as the first distribution hymn this morning:

The people that in darkness sat

A glorious light have seen

The light has shined on them, who long

In shades of death have been.

In shades of death have been.

 

Lord Jesus, reign in us, we pray

And make us Thine alone

Who with the Father ever art

And Holy Spirit, one,

And Holy Spirit, one.

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

The peace of God, which passes understanding, keep your body and soul in Christ Jesus, Our Savior.  Amen.