Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Sailors use the light of a lighthouse to guide them to find safe passage along treacherous shores, or as means to guide their ship to a safe harbour. Sometimes bars or clubs will use spotlights to guide people living in the big city to a big party or event. The light of stars has helped travellers find their way all throughout time. In the DC comic books, a big spotlight is used by the police to guide Batman to police headquarters when a problem arises that is too big for them to handle.
By now you are might be asking, “Where’s Pastor going with this?” Good question. So often we see that light can be used as a guide to lead people to a special destination. Just a week after we roll the calendars over to a new year the church calendar also roles over and we come into the season of Epiphany. We remember how the light of a star led the wise men to the light of the world, the baby Jesus. These wise men were magi from the east, from the area that was once Babylon where the people of Judah had been taken into exile. They obviously have some knowledge of Scripture, having some knowledge of the promise of the Messiah that was to come through the Jewish people, knowledge that they got from the Exiles such as the prophet Daniel, who himself was a magi in Babylon. We’re not sure exactly how many wise men there were that came to see Jesus, often we assume there were three because of the three gifts, but there could’ve been just a pair or more. Regardless of how many wise men there were, their gifts said a great deal about the king that they were coming to visit. They brought gold, frankincense, and myrrh. They brought gold, showing that this child was a king, the King of Kings who reigns over all creation by His death and resurrection. They brought frankincense to show that this child was a priest, our great high priest, as Hebrews puts it. Who enters into the Holy of Holies in heaven itself, to stand before the throne of God the Father Himself to present the sacrifice of Himself for our sin, and even the sins of the whole world. They brought myrrh, a burial spice to show that this child was born to die. To die on the cross for the sins of the world. The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world by the power of His righteous blood. The coming of the magi symbolized that this baby Jew, born in a family of Jews, fulfilling promises made to Jews for Jews would also be for the benefit of the Gentiles as well. Jesus, though a Jew, was also born for all people, to save all people from their sins by His death on the cross.
The light of the world has come to bring light into darkness and shine to bring all people to Himself. Jesus is the light that shines in the world to guide all people to salvation and the forgiveness of sins through His cross. Jesus, working through His Word, shines like a lighthouse that guides people away from the death of their sins to the life that He gives to us by His death and resurrection.
That light still shines today through Christ’s church, which proclaims the revelation given to us in God’s Word that Jesus is God’s Messiah, sent to save people from their sins. In fact, the word Epiphany means “revelation.” So during this season, we focus on how Jesus reveals Himself to be the Son of God through His miracles and how He was sent by God the Father to save the world from our sins. And so we hear of Jesus’ first miracle, turning water into wine in John 2. We hear Jesus first proclaiming Himself as the Messiah in His hometown of Nazareth in Luke 4:16-30. We hear Jesus casting out demons and healing many in Luke 4:31-44. We hear Jesus calling His first disciples. And then we hear two section of Jesus’ Sermon on the Plain (Luke’s version of the Sermon on the Mount from Matthew). By His miracles Jesus is shining His light into the world to guide us, to reveal to us that He is true God. He can do things that only God can do even so far as dying for the sins of the whole world. By His teaching Jesus reveals that He bears the authority of God, teaching on the basis of His own authority saying, “But I say to you…” All of it is to show us that Jesus who comes to us in the flesh at Christmas is the incarnate God who comes to be our Messiah and save us from the curse of sin. The Church continues to declare that message to the world, working as God’s lighthouse on earth, proclaiming God’s Word and administering His sacraments, guiding God’s people away from the darkness and death of the world to the safe harbour of Christ and the only safe passage to the wonders of heaven.
May this season of Epiphany guide you through the toils and labours of this life to the peace and rest that is in Christ alone.
Your servant in Christ,
Pastor Tim Schneider