Idou!

Epiphany Year (C), January 6, 2013
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

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““Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.   For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you.  And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. [Isaiah 60:1-6]

Luther’s Large Catechism states: “Neither you nor I could ever know anything about Christ, or believe in him and receive him as Lord,  unless these were offered to us and bestowed on our hearts through the preaching of the gospel by the Holy Spirit. The work is finished  and completed; Christ has acquired and won the treasure for us by his sufferings, death, and resurrection, etc. But if the work remained  hidden so that no one knew of it, it would have been all in vain, all lost. In order that this treasure might not remain buried but be put  to use and enjoyed, God has caused the Word to be published and proclaimed, in which he has given the Holy Spirit to offer and apply  to us this treasure, this redemption. Therefore being made holy is nothing else than bringing us to the Lord Christ to receive this  blessing, to which we could not have come by ourselves.”

This morning, through our gospel lesson (Matthew 2:1-12), we will examine four questions: 1. Why do some not see Jesus as the Son of  God? 2. What is it that causes some to see Jesus as the Son of God? 3. Why do you believe that Jesus is the Son of God? 4. And finally,  because we do believe, what difference should that make in our lives?

(The Great Pretender music plays for a moment).  The song you just heard was “The Great Pretender” by the Platters.  I chose it as our mental hook to not just set this morning’s message on, but I also thought that it would be a great theme song for King Herod, and all other pretenders and enemies of the church.  Of course the first pretender, and the greatest Pretender of all, was Satan himself.  After his fall from heaven, he has been using deception and tricks, pretending to be something great, so that he can take the hearts of men and women off of their only hope; the Great Savior, the Messiah Jesus Christ.

King Herod was led away from the truth in the same way; his eyes were misdirected off of the promises of God, through the Word of God, and instead his trust, his security was placed in the government of men, at that time the Roman Empire.  When the wise men from the east were brought to Herod because they were asking everyone and anyone within the city of Jerusalem where the child who was born King of the Jews might be found, what was Herod’s response?  “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.”  Worship him; really?  As we know from scripture, Herod wanted to know where the child was so that he could have him killed!  Oh yes, Herod was an evil pretender!

And what of the chief priests and scribes?  “When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.  They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:  “ ‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’ ”   Do you see that?  They knew exactly where the child would be born.  And if He had come, as the wise men suspected, and if scripture was being fulfilled, why didn’t they go to see for themselves?  Because they were putting their hope and trust in their wealth and their position.

Sadly today things are not any different with the many pretenders that live among us.  They will pass themselves off as wise men, but really they are only “wise guys;” they are wise in their own sight.  They place their trust in knowledge and learning, but have no time for the wisdom of God; the miracles of God that alone lead to eternal life and salvation.  They will tell us that the story of the wise men following the star is simply a fable; a child’s story.  They will tell you that no star could behave the way this one did; appearing, disappearing, and reappearing, hovering, moving, and settling on one little house in Bethlehem.  And they are right; no star in the heavens could do that, but a light sent from God to lead people to the Savior of the world could.  They dismiss the miracle of the light, and when they do they also dismiss the miracle of the baby God-man, the Savior of the world.  But there were learned men who did allow the light of God to lead them, and they went from wise guys to wise men.

“And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him.”   Behold… or in the Greek, idou.  Today, the young folks might say “check it out!”  Whenever that word idou appears, we have what we might call an “ah-ha” moment.  It means that God is intervening in the time and history of men in order to do something wonderful.  It means that He is acting in a miraculous way, so that sinful men, wise guys like Herod, the Sanhedrin, and chief priest, and you and me, won’t be mistaken; it means God is serious and He has something that everyone better take note of.

You know, like when Joseph the husband of mother Mary, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly, (and) behold (idou), an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.  She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” [Matthew 1:19-21]  Or, how about this one:  “And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold (idou), I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. [Luke 2:8-14]

Imagine, God chose to tell the good news of a Savior for the people of Israel, to dirty no good sinners; foreign and pagan idiots who accumulated a lot of knowledge but no wisdom.  This was an affront to the good people of Jerusalem, the God-fearing Jews.  After all this was their Savior, the one that they were waiting for, so why did God invite the Magi?  He invited them so that they might see the Word of God, the prophecy of God in Micah fulfilled and become part of God’s people; part of the people of faith that He would shepherd.  He called them after He said “idou”.  Idou, all who hear; listen, repent, believe, and be saved.  So He called the Magi and they listened, they became wise onto salvation, but Herod, the Chief Priests and Sanhedrin, would not listen, so they just remained wise guys.

God is still calling out to sinners; He is still bringing light into darkness.  And today, wise men, illuminated by the miracle light giving God still listen and find Jesus.  They allow God to lead them out of the darkness and into the light, because they see a need for a Savior and a new beginning.

You too have had your idou moment; in fact you are having one now, as the Word of God continues to change and rearrange you; you are being asked to behold your God who is with you!  It first started long ago in your baptism, when God reached into the darkness of this sinful world, into the darkness of your own sin and saved you.  It was there in those holy waters that He first gave you the gift of His Son, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, crucified upon the cross for the sins of the world, died and was buried.  But just as on the third day He arose, so to, you out of the waters of your baptism arose a new person; holy, blameless, and righteous, simply because that was God’s will for you.

And now, you live out each day a person who is wise and is becoming wise unto salvation.  You are asked every day to put to death that great pretender, the wise guy, who was drowned in baptism, hung on the cross at Golgotha, and then allow the Word of God to illuminate you with His idou, His gift of Epiphany to you.  The days of pretending are over; each day as you are led by God’s light, you are learning to agree with Him that there is nothing good or wise within you accept for the things He gives to you.  And what is the result of this work of God within a child of God?  As your shepherd, He is leading you into worship and witness!

We worship Him when we come to Him here in church and lay before Him our time talent and treasure.  We worship Him when we simply are still, hear Him speak and know that He is God, our God.  We worship Him when we agree that there is a way that seems right to sinful men, wise guys, but in the end it leads only to death.  We worship Him when we hunger to hear His Word, His message of forgiveness.  And then in the middle of worship, behold (idou), He moves us away from this place, but not His presence, into a world dark with sin, to simply live and let His light illuminate both us and other pretenders who need to know the mystery of God.  The wise guys, the pretenders who are foreign to God are also invited to be fellow heirs, members of the same body (our church) and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel, the message of forgiveness. [Ephesians 3:4-6]

Dear friends, this was a message that once was hidden in the darkness of sin to even you, but now you have received the light of God, the message of God that has made you wise unto salvation.  This is the message that changes sinful pretenders into redeemed children of God; it is a message that changes “wise guys” into wise men and women.  It worked and is working for you; it has saved you!  And it is God’s desire that the message of forgiveness would save not just you, but also your family, friends, and neighbors too.  I pray that you will continue to follow the light of God and invite others to follow Him as well, and I ask this in Jesus name… AMEN!

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