-this sermon preached with laryngitis while sucking on a cough drop
In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
The mummy in a manger. Worshiped by eastern sages, declared by agents of Roman Emperor, bringing to Him the wealth of the nations. And by so doing declaring Him to the world as God the Son’s royal prayer to His Father that saves you by His death.
And that is how this baby becomes food for you: by death; by His hanging on a cross which declared Him the King of the Jews; a cruel and painful throne; His blood was spilt for your drinking and His body prepared for your eating; by altars like this where He comes enthroned and lifted up by we who here praise Him, kneel before Him, and reverence Him; that body and blood first lifted on a cross are given as food so that he or she who eats it in faith may have life, life to the full. Life through this mummy in the manger.
The Star appeared. The star made it known. The star which could be seen by all the earth led them to Him. God does not usually work this way. This was a one off. Despite the fact that you may feel close to God in nature, nature does not reveal God to you! It didn’t even reveal God to the Wise Men. Nature led them to ponder God. Just as nature’s majesty leads our hearts and minds to ponder God’s brilliant design in all things, leading us to inquire of Him, but where do we find Him? Those Wise Men went to the source: not to Jerusalem, but the Scriptures.
For if you wish to draw close to the true God, who came as a mummy in a manger to feed you the bread of life, you will not find Him in nature, but only in God’s Holy Word. That is where the Wise Men looked. That is where even wicked King Herod had to turn in order to search out the child to destroy Him: God’s Word. It is the revealer of all things, laying bare the state of your heart, your need for God, the emptiness within of worshipping nature, or the work of your hands, or your own efforts to be wise. For none of it matters in the end. ‘“Meaningless, meaningless!” says the teacher.’ God’s Word reveals human wisdom as the shallow sham that it is. It shows our need for a saviour.
The Star appeared leading Wise Men to the Christ child. But God’s Word appeared in the flesh letting them do reverence to Him, placing their faith in Him, leading you and me to Himself, giving Himself to mankind so that your hands can touch God, your mouth can taste Him and your eyes can see Him and know that He is good. This makes no human sense. A God born in the weakness of flesh? The Infinite being encapsulated in what is so finite? The All Powerful, Almighty helpless as a newborn? The All Wise, All Knowing One having to learn everything according to the flesh as a baby boy? Ridiculous!
And yet the Magi, the Wise Men of Persia, those who were considered fathers and teachers of the Ancient Greek Philosophers, Greece who taught Rome who imparted to the West our great traditions of wisdom and scientific progress, these men come and bow before this illogical God. This God who comes to His people in weakness, allowing Himself to be ignored, rejected. A God who teaches us to be shrewd like serpents, but meek as doves. A God who allows Himself to be killed so that He might save you by His death and become the Eternal Interceder with His Father on your behalf.
This is the God who shepherds His people by His preached Word, His shed blood received with His promise here, and by water and His Word poured on the heads of infants and old, wise and foolish alike!
This epiphany, let the Star lead you back to the mummy in the manger so that God’s Word might go with you all the year as you receive Him regularly in His Holy Supper.
In +Jesus’ name, Amen.
—Pastor David Haberstock
Epiphany Lutheran Church
Thunder Bay, ON