Summary: The Epiphany, Jan. 6th is about God’s revelation of himself in flesh in the person of Jesus to the Magi. The sermon deals with "reactions" to the baby Jesus and the adult Jesus, his words and resurrection.
In Jesus Holy Name January 7, 2007
Epiphany Matthew 2:1-3 Redeemer
“What Happened to Epiphany?”
Yesterday was January 6th, the 12th Day of Christmas. How many of you missed our Epiphany worship service last night? You missed it? It wasn’t in the bulletin?
Actually, it is no longer a well attended worship service….because most people believe that Christmas is over on the 26th of December when they shop the after Christmas sales.
Christmas is past. It’s ancient history. Santa and his sleigh are in safe seclusion. Christmas carols have been shelved till November 2007. New Year’s Day has come and gone. Only one college football game remains.
It’s a shame that Epiphany has been relegated to the back burners of religious holi days because we need the angel’s message of “good news of great joy for all people.”
The movie “The Nativity” was a great movie but they got it all wrong. Yes, the Magi were astrologers from the east. Yes, they did travel to Jerusalem. They showed up at the Palace and politely asked: “Excuse us, where is He who has been born King of the Jews?” It was hardly a complex question. Someone could have pointed down the hall way.
What did happen is King Herod called an emergency cabinet meeting composed of his closest advisers, and the highest religious authorities. After consultation, the king quoted a cryptic bit of scripture and the wise men were sent on their way to Bethlehem.
The star led them and came to rest over “the place where the child was. When they saw the star they were overjoyed.” But the baby was no longer in a manger. Mary and Joseph and the baby had moved into a house. The movie provided a great, enduring visual. It looked like the Christmas card. The cave, the shepherds, the baby in a manger and the wise men with their camels. Not so. Matthew writes: “On coming to the house they saw the child…and they worshiped him.”
January 6th celebrates the visit of the Magi and the revelation of God to mankind in human form in the person of Jesus.
Herod was not happy. All Jerusalem was disturbed. And rightly so. Herod was jealous, merciless, suspicious and ruthless. He made sure no one challenged his kingship. Over the years he managed to drown his wife’s brother, the high priest; he killed his favorite wife, her mother and three of his own sons. When Herod got disturbed, everybody got disturbed.
When this baby was born in Bethlehem, King Herod was threatened. The religious rulers, who knew the prophecies, did their best to ignore him. Today modern religions have taken the indifference of the ancient priests and transformed it into the hatred of Herod. Modern religions and nations are afraid of the baby.
Islamic Saudi Arabia forbids followers of the baby from bringing their bibles into the country. Islamic Iran arrests and holds without trial, whose who would follow the baby. In some Buddhist nations the education and economic rights of the baby’s followers are denied these government services.
What can be so frightening about a baby that would make world religions and rulers tremble? The Bethlehem Baby didn’t stay a baby. He grew up. He began doing astonishing things, miraculous things. He healed lepers, and the lame, the blind and deaf. He fed thousands of people with a few fish and loaves of bread. He stilled storms with just two words. Why is he so dangerous to religious scholars and rulers?
He told stories of shepherds, slaves and Samaritans; of lost coins, lost sheep and lost opportunities. But when he grew up he is not remembered as a great Philosopher, or an accomplished healer, or a brilliant Storyteller. He said: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will never die.” He said: “I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father, except through me.” Ravi Zacharias in his Book “Jesus Among Other Gods” writes: “Every word of that statement challenges the fundamental beliefs of the Indian culture from which I come, and in reality, actually stands against an entire world.” Hinduism and Bahaism have long challenged the concept of a singe way to God.
He claimed to forgive sins. The Jewish religious leaders wanted to stone him because he claimed that he was God in flesh. Jesus claimed to be the promised Messiah. Jesus claimed to be the Savior of the world. Jesus successfully fulfilled all of God’s laws that the rest of humanity found impossible to keep. With these words Jesus is saying that He is carrying all of humanity’s sins so that all who believe on Him as their Substitute and Redeemer will be saved.
Jesus claimed that we can personally know God and that absolute nature of His truth. Agnostics deny that possibility. Our culture calls for tolerance. Yet truth can not be sacrificed at the altar of pretended tolerance. All religions, plainly and simply, can not be true. Some beliefs are false and we know them to be false.