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The brightness of His birth

Matthew 2:1-23

Pastor David Ernst

Epiphany Sunday
Epiphany Lutheran Mission of La Caramuca  
Barinas, Venezuela

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Sun, Jan 5, 2020 

Grace and peace in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Today we celebrate the day of the Magi. Now we have two Wise Men in our manger with Joseph, Mary and the Child Jesus. We sang “We Three Kings". However, the Bible does not say how many Magi visited the Baby Jesus. It only says some Magi from the east. The concept of three comes from the interpretation of this event.

On Christmas Eve, the shepherds in the field saw the Infant Jesus. They were common men of Israel. God promised Abraham that the Messiah, the Savior of the world, would come first to Abraham's descendants. So it was.

But, on the same night that the angels appeared to the shepherds, a star appeared to foreigners far away in the east. Epiphany means appearance or manifestation and for us this is the first manifestation of the Savior to all nations.

In our Old Testament reading (Isaiah 60: 1-6), the prophet says: "And the Gentiles will walk to your light, and the kings to the brightness of your birth." And in our epistle (Ephesians 3: 1-12) St. Paul says, "To me, that I am less than the least of all saints, this grace is given to proclaim among the Gentiles the gospel of the inscrutable riches of Christ." Why? "That the Gentiles be together heirs, and members of the same body, and partakers of their promise in Christ for the gospel." The word, Gentile, means those who were not Jews. The promise was never only for Abraham's descendants by blood. Abraham had two children. He who received the promise was Isaac, notIshmael. Isaac also had two children, but the promise passed to Jacob by faith, not to Esau. The plan of salvation was always for the faithful of all nations.

In the Epiphany, we have the fulfillment of the rest of Isaiah's prophecy: “A multitude of camels will cover you, dromedaries of Midian and Ephah; all of Seba will come; they will bring gold and incense, and they will publish praises of Jehovah. ” The Magi brought to Jesus gold, incense and myrrh, gifts for a king from a king. And if we think of a gift from each one, we can think of three kings.

But there is more. In many Christian art, the Magi are represented as being of the three races: African, European and Asian, because the land of Palestine is at the crossroads between Africa, Europe and Asia. In this way art communicates that the Epiphany was the appearance of the Child Jesus to all nations. First, the humble of Israel. Then, the kings of the world.

In truth, the Magi probably lived in Persia or Mesopotamia, nowadays Iran and Iraq. They originated in Persia as a class of wise men, students of nature, astronomers, philosophers, advisors to the kings of Persia. During their captivity in Babylon, that is, Iraq, the Jews were involved in the government, first of the king of Babylon and after the conquest of Babylon, of the king of Persia. Perhaps the Jews spoke with the magicians of the prophecies of a King of kings and Savior and the magicians kept this legend in their traditions.

Then, on Christmas Eve the Magi saw something in heaven that signaled the birth of the Messiah to them. A comet? A meteor? Astronomer Juan Kepler calculated the movements of the planets and proposed an alignment of Jupiter and Saturn around the year of Jesus' birth. Never mind, God made a sign for them and the Magi began their journey to Bethlehem. They had no planes or cars or motorcycles, they traveled by camels.

After a year or more, they arrived in Jerusalem. “And when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of King Herod, behold, some wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying: Where is the King of the Jews, who was born? Because we have seen his star in the east, and we come to worship him. When King Herod heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. ”

Herod is called the Great, but he was a figurehead, a puppet of the Romans. But, he had the king's dress, his servants and power in his domain. What did Herod think when the Magi spoke of another king? “Then Herod, secretly calling the wise men, diligently inquired of them the time of the star's appearance; and sending them to Bethlehem, he said: Go and ask diligently for the child; and when you have found him, let me know, so that I also go and worship him. ” But Herod did not want to worship the Infant Jesus, but to kill him.

“And they, having heard the king, left; and, behold, the star they had seen in the east was ahead of them, until arriving, it stopped over where the boy was. And when they saw the star, they rejoiced with great joy. And entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and bowing down they worshiped him; and opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold, frankincense and myrrh. And being warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, they returned to their land by another way. And when they had departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph, saying: Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you; because Herod will look for the child to kill him. ”

God the Almighty Father sent His angels to protect the Infant Jesus, because the hour of His death had not come. He saved Jesus to die on the cross and save us. On the cross, Jesus paid the price of the sins of all mankind, that is, all nations.

“Herod then, when he was mocked by the wise men, was filled with anger, and sent to kill all the children two years old and under in Bethlehem and all its surroundings, according to the time he had inquired of the wise men. Then what was said by the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled, which said: Voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, weeping and great groaning, Rachel who cries to her children, and did not want to be comforted, because they perished. ”

But, Herod in his time also died, and Joseph, Mary and the Child Jesus returned to Nazareth. We must think about the slaughter of the Innocents of Bethlehem, because we must be prepared to face death because of Christ. St. Paul says we die and are buried with Christ in baptism. We no longer walk in darkness, but are lights on earth. And those who live in darkness do not like light. In their pride, they do not want to recognize their sins and their need for a Savior, so they oppose the message of forgiveness and peace with God. There is more persecution of Christians in this world today than ever, in Nigeria, China, India and elsewhere.

Today we receive Karla Valeria Frías Torrealba, and her mother, Yudy Torrealba, in the fraternity of our altar with the question if they are willing to confess the faith of their baptism until death. But, it is worthwhile to live in the light of Christ in which we have the peace that surpasses all understanding. Amen.

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