This is the sermon I preached on Sunday, Jan. 6, Epiphany at St. Timothy Lutheran Church. The gospel text is Matthew 2:1-12.
Now, this is a story we know. We’ve seen the scene of the wise men bringing gifts to Jesus so many times in so many pageants. Epiphany is a time when we celebrate the in-breaking of God’s light in God’s way. The Magi are drawn from the east to come and pay homage to the Christ child. There are many theories as to who the magi were: from Zoroastrian priests to astrologers to magicians to kings, while some believe that the Magi were simply a literary device utilized by Matthew. They may have been any or all of the above, but the point is that they were foreigners and gentile outsiders and yet, God spoke to them through a star, through the light and they followed that light.
The world into which Jesus was born was full of all kinds of darkness. Many lived as slaves of one kind or another. Many were dependent for their daily bread on the arbitrary generosity of those who owned most of the land. The shadow of the Roman Empire loomed over the entire Mediterranean world. It cast the shadow of ruthless conquerors. In Jesus’ day, for many, there was no hope of anything better.
Our world is not so different than that of first century Palestine. We have our own despots grabbing for power, terrified by the prospect of losing power and willing to do almost anything to hang onto it. We have our own children in need. We too are surrounded by great darkness. Many will fall prey to manipulation. Far too many children are threatened and sacrificed to violence. But in the midst of the horror, God is still at work. God works through the various agencies of our church overseas and at home. God works through us as we share our wealth with those in need. God is fashioning us into people to do God’s work in the world.
What might this look like? To take stands against leaders who manipulate through fear. To offer shelter and sanctuary. To advocate for those who have had to flee their homes. To be those who resist oppression and violence and manipulation.
God is at work fashioning us to be bearers of the light that has come into the world, the light that the darkness neither understands nor has overcome. God is at work making us into an Epiphany people, people of the light, people who know that the joy and grace of Christmas, is not a gift to be admired, but one to be put to work for the sake of the world God loves so much (David Lose). This Epiphany light is something we are not to keep to ourselves, but to share with friends and neighbors, with all we come in contact with.
God spoke to outsider magi through the light of a star and they followed that light. And that’s simply all God asks of us is to follow the light he has given us and in so doing, we will become the light in the darkness, which takes us back to the baptismal promises that we heard a couple of weeks ago at the baptism of Margot Claire Wickerham, “Let your light so shine before others that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (ELW).
M. Eugene Boring and Fred B. Craddock, The People’s New Testament
Alan Brehm, thewakingdreamer.blogspot.com
David Ewart, holytextures.com
Karoline Lewis, workingpreacher.org
David Lose, davidlose.net
Brian Stoffregen, crossmarks.com.