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Monday, January 6, 2014

Epiphany Sermon

January 6, 2014

Ephesians 3:6

Grace, Mercy and Peace are yours from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.           
From today’s Epistle ready, Ephesians 3:6, This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.  This is the text.
You dear fellow believers in Jesus are partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.  All those old, great saints in the Bible that saw miracles and heard directly from God Almighty, who were right there when God’s history was unfolding, now the Bible says you are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. 
The Wise Men came from the East, having traveled from somewhere beyond the Euphrates River, and came to Judea and started asking around, "Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him." (Matt. 2:2). They weren’t Jews, but they were looking for the King of the Jews.
Epiphany celebrates the event when they found what they were looking for. They found Jesus. And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him (Mt 2:11).
Epiphany ought not be a holiday that gets forgotten or overlooked, especially if you are a Gentile. Christmas is the celebration of the great gift of God born in the flesh. Epiphany is the celebration of that gift being delivered. What good is a gift if it isn’t delivered, right?
Epiphany celebrates the good news that the gift born in a little Jewish town in the Middle East is delivered to every corner of the world: Delivered to those foreign Asian Wise Men, Delivered to Africa, Delivered to tribes in Europe and then eventually delivered to these new lands over here; delivered to you when you grasp Him by faith, when you are united to Him in Baptism, when you take Him into yourself in the Supper of our Lord.
Bethlehem was apparently a busy place. All these out of towners were there for the census. It must have been hustling and bustling. Many who heard about the birth of a baby in Bethlehem that night, probably just thought “Aah, isn’t that nice!” and then went on with things, on with the census, on with their travels home, on with their travels home.
I fear that many people today will do that now that Christmas is over. They heard the great glad tidings. They heard the Christmas message in the carols that were sung. They read about it on the greeting cards that came. “Aah, isn’t that nice!” and then they go on with things, their work and their play and their lives.
The Wise Men got it. They fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.
Being a Christian, is more than just putting up a tree for a month or so each year.
Being a Christian means, first you know the answer to the Wise Men’s question: "Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? He is humbly born in Bethlehem. He is in obedience and apparent weakness hung to the cross paying for the wrath of God against all   the sins of the world.
Being a Christian means, second, you trust that all this is for you. You are partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. 
That’s the Good News of Ephesians 3  This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. 
For those of you who are Gentiles, not by blood a part of Abraham’s blessed nation, this verse is Good News.
Three things:
            You are fellow heirs with the Jews. As promised in Isaiah, the nations are being drawn into the fellowship, into the faith of God’s people.
            You are members of the same body. God has not left you alone. He has brought you into organic body of all those who have believed in Him and walked in His ways, the great heroes of the faith of old times. . . you are now one of them, by faith.
            You are partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the Gospel. That then is how you are going to read and hear every page in the Bible from now on. You’re a partaker of the promises it makes. Pick a promise, any promise, you’re a partaker, a sharer in it. Psalm 23 is a familiar one. The Lord is my shepherd. . . he leads me to green pastures.
            He prepares a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
            Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
            Read those, hear those, partake of those promises in Christ Jesus through the gospel. 

Wise Men or Mages or Magi as they are sometimes called were the scholars of the ancient Babylonian and Persian Empires.  Daniel, in the Old Testament, was living in Exile in Babylonia and was a part of this class of Wise Men. They were astrologers.  But in a good way. What goes by the name of astrology nowadays has been horribly distorted by the devil. It’s a farce. But It’s based on the original design of the universe.  God in His wisdom placed the stars and galaxies in such a way that they spelled out certain messages, times, seasons, and even a summary of history. These wise men were skilled in discerning the message of God written in the stars. And the message led them to seek out Jesus, and to worship Him with their sacrifice of time, the weeks it took to journey to Him, and their gifts of Gold, Frankincence and myrhh.
Gold – fit for a king
Frankincense – prayer and worship.
Myrhh – spices used mostly for burial. Morbid gift really, to give a baby. But they apparently understood the significance of this child’s birth --born to suffer and die for their sins.
By seeking, By travelling so far, by giving these gifts, these wise men gave a wonderful confession of their faith.
By comparison then, each of us must ask ourselves how are we at confessing our faith.
We can each ask: Do I ever do things I wouldn’t have otherwise done if Jesus had not been born into this world?
Is there a deed anywhere in my life which I wouldn’t have gone ahead and done, if it hadn’t been for Jesus?
If your life goes on mechanically from morning to evening, day after day, and everything you have done can be explained from an earthly basis, then what kind of faith are you confessing?
Christmas is easy to be a Christian and confess so in your greeting and in your songs and in your decorations.
Let Epiphany be a time to repent of any slowness on your part to confess the faith, any preoccupation with earthly things that distract you from hearing and believing the promises of the Gospel, any failure to live in the reality that God is with us, Immanuel, all the time, wherever we go.
Let Epiphany be a time to celebrate that the gift of God born in Bethlehem, lifted up on Calvary, Risen and ascended in heaven, is delivered to you as worship Him, Hear His Word and Believe His good promises.


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