Archive for January, 2019

Arthur’s Dash

Wednesday, January 16th, 2019

A Christian Funeral/Memorial Sermon for Arthur Lozier
January 16, 2019
Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor of
Trinity Lutheran Church
San Diego, CA 92114

Click here for audio of this message

“And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” [Philippians 1:6]  

Grace mercy and peace to you dear family and friends of Arthur James Lozier, from God our Father and our Savior Jesus Christ.

When I was a boy my brothers and I liked to walk around in the old cemetery near our home. We were fascinated by the old head stones dating back to the mid 1800’s.  They were for the most part simple and old granite head stones, which said something like, “John Doe 1804-1880.” As we walked around the head stones we wondered and talked about what kind of life they must have lived. Without more information, their entire lives seemed to be summed up with a dash that fell between their date of birth and their date of death. The dash simply acknowledged their life. 

Arthur Lozier’s dash, his life was rich and full. It was rich and full because the Lord Jesus Christ had claimed Art and had never left him!

Arthur’s life in Jesus began when as a small baby, he was baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit at Zion Lutheran Church, in Oakland, California.

It was there in the waters of Holy baptism where God promised to complete the good work of salvation that He began in both Art and you dear baptized Christians. Listen to a few more of those promises contained in your Bibles: 

1. “The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. [Psalm 138:8]
2. “(God) will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” [1 Cor. 1:8]
3. “This is the work of God, that you believe in (Jesus Christ) Whom He has sent.” [John 6:29]

Throughout Art’s life, God continued to complete His good work of forgiveness of sins and eternal life. As a boy, Art was instructed in the Word of God by Christian parents and the pastor at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Berkley, CA. There at Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Arthur was confirmed in His Christian faith and equipped by God to be able to approve what is excellent. Through this work of God, Art was promised that on the day of judgment he would be pronounced pure and blameless not because of the life he lived but because he trusted in Christ alone. 

It was then after the confirmation of His faith that Arthur as a young teen was invited to the Lord’s Table, and was offered and received Christ’s body and blood in with and under the bread and wine for the forgiveness of sins, the strengthening of faith, and the remembrance of the good work Christ both began and promised to complete throughout Art’s life.

Arthur’s dash of earthly life also included the blessing of marriage and the birth of two sons, Karl and Kurt.

During this time, Art would move his family to Australia. But as is true for all of God’s baptized saints, trouble and sin were always near Art. Art found Christ’s promise of forgiveness and comfort to be personal and true after his marriage ended in divorce. It was then and there that this promise of Christ found Art: “I have told you these things, so that you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart, I have overcome the world.” [John 16:33]

Out of the tragedy of sin and divorce, Art was retaught a truth that all of us Christians learn over and over again; we live out our dash of life simultaneously as a baptized saint and a earth bound sinner. In the Word of God, the law of God forces us to look within our own hearts and discover sin and condemnation. But in that same Word of God we are daily taught that God’s Son Jesus Christ has overcome the world and our own sin; He has set us free from that sin with Words of forgiveness, redemption and new life. This Good News of forgiveness is what turned Art’s heart back to Christ’s cross and the waters of baptism. It is this very thing that continues to draw each of us back to God seeking a renewed life in Christ.

When Art left Australia and returned to the U.S., he felt the calling of God to reconnect to Christ’s Church, and he did that very thing right here at Trinity Lutheran Church in San Diego, and we his church family are glad he did!

Art’s dash, his earthly life here among us at Trinity was always centered around the promises of God through Jesus Christ. 

In God’s Word, Arthur found forgiveness for his many sins, and comfort and strength to live out his redeemed life in a broken world. He found comfort because God’s Word had convinced him that He was never outside of Jesus ability to save him. He found the strength to continue living in dark and sometimes lonely times, because he knew by faith that through Christ Jesus, God would never leave him nor forsake him.

Art was active in both growing and expressing his Christian faith here at Trinity. He was a regular member of both our Sunday and Wednesday morning Bible Studies where he dug deeper into God’s Word. He asked honest questions about the Christian faith and celebrated both the revealed will of God and the unrevealed will of God. For instance, Art celebrated the truth that through Christ’s death upon the cross and the life giving waters of baptism all are offered forgiveness, yet this truth some times irritated and saddened him, because he could not understand why so many baptized Christians seemed to happily reject God’s gift of forgiveness and eternal life. As with most of us, Art found that he had no choice but to trust the same God who began the work of salvation to complete that good work as well. Art had faith that one day the people he knew and loved who rejected God’s gift of forgiveness and salvation through Jesus Christ would finally surrender to Christ and find salvation.  

Art was active in the Men’s Club and served on the Board of Elders up until his death. Art also loved to read the Word of God publicly at Divine Service. All of you who are members here a Trinity can easily close your eyes and hear in your mind his strong base tone enunciating each syllable that made up the readings for the day!

Dear friends, Arthur James Lozier’s life must not be defined simply by a date of birth and a date of death but by the redeemed life that is represented in the dash. I end this message as we began this service with this proclamation of God’s own truth: In Holy Baptism Brother Arthur James Lozier was clothed with the robe of Christ’s righteousness that covered all his sin.  St. Paul says, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?” Each of us then along with Art were buried therefore with Jesus by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.  For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His. 

Art has found redemption and peace with God in a place not made with hands, but in a paradise prepared by Jesus Himself.  May God By faith confirm this promise in each of our hearts in Jesus name… Amen!

Gladly Say It!

Sunday, January 13th, 2019

Baptism of the Lord-C
January 13, 2019
Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor of
Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street
San Diego, CA 92114

Click here for audio of this message.

 

“Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”” [Luke 3:21, 22]

This morning we will explore two questions by looking at our two natures.  The two questions are: 1. Why was Jesus baptized?  2. (And) Why is your baptism such a big deal?

First, Jesus was baptized because it was necessary to fulfill all righteousness.  What I mean by that is, when He entered into the Jordan that day to be baptized by John, He was announcing to this sinful world that His ministry to redeem and save it had begun; He was announcing to all sinful people and all the devils that the promise of the Savior was being fulfilled and would be accomplished once and for all by Him and Him alone.  When Jesus fulfilled all righteousness, He was declaring judgment upon the devil.  On that day He was declaring to you that He would be your righteousness; you would be spared the final judgment for your sins because He would take the punishment that you and your sins deserved.   

Now this is both good news and bad news.  It is good news for you, that is for your new baptismal nature that God has given to you in your baptism.  That new nature, the nature we identify with as a saint, rejoices in this proclamation of righteousness.  Our call to Worship hymn, “God’s Own Child, I Gladly Say It” is in modern terms, the theme song of our baptismal life.  That new nature celebrates that Jesus has now sanctified the waters of baptism, through the power of the Holy Spirit.  No one has to convince it that God is love and has saved it; it’s very existence makes this self-evident.   But you have another nature; your old sinful nature that does not see this as good news, because it means that it must die.  This old nature will do everything it can to live.  That nature has many “theme songs”, but perhaps the song by Luther Ingram, “If Loving You is Wrong, I Don’t want to be Right” is the best.

Our old Nature says, “If loving you is wrong, then I just don’t care about being in the right.”  

The “you” in the song refers to a mistress who is in an adulterous relationship.  But in our lives, the mistress is anything that we might be tempted to call right, which God says is wrong.  God says that intimacy without marriage is wrong, and marriage is between a man and a woman; wrong says the sinful nature, if it feels good and makes me feel fulfilled, then it can’t be wrong.  In regards to our own bodies, God’s Word says, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?  You are not your own, for you were bought with a (great) price.  So glorify God in your body.” [1 Corinthians 6:19, 20]  “Wrong” says the sinful flesh of today’s modern woman, “A woman’s body is hers alone and the life within her womb is hers to decide whether it will be born or not.”

God’s Word says, “Thou shalt not have any other god’s before or beside Me” and our sinful flesh shakes it’s fist at the law of God and follows the law of society which says, “If it feels good, just do it!”  So we as a people, as a nation pursue happiness at all costs because that is our right as one who is simply doing what feels good and seems right.  We pursue and procure all things that promise happiness and a better life.  “I have a right to this and a need for that.”  So we set out on the pursuit of things that this sinful world and our own sinful desires say are necessary.  And this pursuit that seems good right and salutary makes itself central to all things; and when our sinful nature becomes central to our existence, we become the god of our lives.  We can easily justify lying, stealing, coveting, and even murder, because after all, it makes us feel good.  So, “If loving (this or that) is wrong, then I don’t want to be right.”  

And God sees all of this and warns that there is a way that seems right to you but in the end, it really does lead to death.  You can’t agree that I am right and you are wrong, so I will come to you myself and not only show you the truth, but I will pay for your sins.  I will send my Son to you who will teach you and allow you to see all things clearly.  Through His Word, through His cross, through His empty tomb, you will know the truth and that truth will set you free.  I will cleanse you with the same water and Word that He Himself sanctified before He set His face to the cross in order to procure your salvation.  

Now since you are hearing His truth, hear this truth also.  “Baptism, which corresponds to (the ark, which saved Noah and his family from the flood) now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” [1 Peter 3:21] “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” [Romans 6:4] 

This is God’s promise to those of you who are worried about your sin; those things which cause you to fear that God no longer cares or loves you.  When you are cut to the heart and don’t know how you will ever know peace with God, listen to St. Peter, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” [Acts 2:37-39]

For you who long to hear words of comfort, hear the gospel in our call to worship hymn, and let it be your new natures theme song.  Let these Words speak to your heart.  Agree with God and shake your fist at the devil and your own old, sinful nature.


God’s own child, I gladly say it: I am baptized into Christ!  He, because I could not pay it, Gave my full redemption price.  Do I need earth’s treasures many?  I have one worth more than any, that brought me salvation free; lasting to eternity!  

Listen, I know my own self, and you know yourselves; we shouldn’t be God’s own child.  We know that in our old sinful nature, that is on our own, there is nothing worth loving or saving within us, and yet, God’s Word declares that He does love us and He has saved us through the life, death, and resurrection of His Son our Savior Jesus Christ.  That one gift is greater than anything the world has to offer.  Claim that gift that was first given to you in your baptism and rest in it forever!

Sin, disturb my soul no longer:  I am baptized into Christ!  I have comfort even stronger: Jesus’ cleansing sacrifice.  Should a guilty conscience seize me since my Baptism did release me in a dear forgiving flood, sprinkling me with Jesus’ blood?

We do have guilty consciences don’t we?  Well, let the Word of God, the gospel of Jesus Christ give you peace.  Jesus died to bring forgiveness to the world, and in your baptism, He came to give it to you personally.  You are forgiven!  Let that truth soak in and live out it’s truth.  Fight the sin that is within your old nature.  And when you fall into sin, don’t let that old you trick you into thinking you have sinned beyond God’s ability to save.  Shut its mouth with the Word of God and continue to remind it that “you have been baptized into Christ Jesus and into His death.  The old nature was buried with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, you too might walk in newness of life.” [Romans 6:1-11]

Satan, hear this proclamation: I am baptized into Christ!  Drop your ugly accusation, I am not so soon enticed.  Now that to the font I’ve traveled, all your might has come unraveled, and, against your tyranny, God, my Lord, unites with me!  

So when the devil begins to throw your sins into your face, and taunts you with a future of doubt and even fear of hell, simply tell him, “Devil you go to hell because that is what you desire; as for me, I admit that I am a sinner, what of it?  You see I know of One who is greater than my sin and He has conquered all of my fears and tormenters, even you!  His name is Jesus Christ, and where He is, there I will be one day with Him as well!”

Death, you cannot end my gladness: I am baptized into Christ!  When I die, I leave all sadness to inherit paradise!  Though I lie in dust and ashes faith’s assurance brightly flashes: Baptism has the strength divine, to make life immortal mine.  

We’ve talked about the fear of death quite a bit this last season of Advent, but it bears repeating.  A Christian who fears their own death because they are uncertain about what or where their life will be after they leave this sinful earth, is a Christian who has small faith and lacks the joy of their salvation.  But small faith, the size of a mustard seed is better than no faith.  God shall one day take that small faith and show you what miracles He can and will do with it.  You will behold your God one day with your own eyes; you and not another for you, and He will say, “Welcome baptized Christian, come and enter your Fathers heaven, and rest in a place that He has prepared for you.”

There is nothing worth comparing to this lifelong comfort sure!  Open-eyed my grave is staring:     Even there I’ll sleep secure.  Though my flesh awaits its raising, still my soul continues praising: I am baptized into Christ; I’m a child of paradise!  

Do you hear that dear friends? You are a baptized saint.  Your old sinful nature will never gladly celebrate this truth, in fact it will fight it until your last breath.  It knows that it has lost, and it knows that it must die, but like the devil it will not go quietly.  Together, your old sinful nature and the devil want only to cheat you out of your inheritance, but if you will simply hold onto the promises of God, rest in the cross of Christ and your own baptism, you will be clothed with divine strength, which in the end will provide to you eternal life and everlasting peace with God.  It is that nature which now and forever, with God’s means of grace protecting and providing for it declares now and forever: “By baptism, I am God’s own child, and I will gladly say it!  AMEN!”

THE EPIPHANY OF OUR LORD

Sunday, January 6th, 2019

Epiphany-C
January 6, 2018
Mr. Rick Stark, Vicar of
Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street
San Diego, CA 92114

Click here for audio of this message.

“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.”

By fortunate circumstance due to the recurring and predictable nature of the calendar, the Epiphany of Our Lord falls on a Sunday this year. That Sunday is today. And by even greater circumstance, but by no means a random one, you get to be in the house of our Lord, listening to the Lord’s Word, on the day we celebrate the Epiphany of Our Lord.

Whether you’re our congregation’s youngest believer, or whether you’re pushing your way into your ninth or tenth decade of faith, you are not here on account of your own goodness. You are here because by God’s grace and by His election, you have received your own “epiphany of our Lord and Savior” somewhere along your life’s path

But just what is “Epiphany”?  Many in the secular world think that Epiphany, which always occurs 12 days after Christmas, is the standard allotted time to take down your Christmas decorations.  In some cultures of the world, Epiphany is a grander, larger scale, celebration than Christmas itself. And just to the south of us in Mexico, Epiphany is commonly celebrated with such things as cutting the “King cake” and gifts left in shoes for the children.

The word ‘Epiphany’ comes from Greek and literally means ‘a manifestation’. In other words, it has to do with something being revealed that has previously been hidden, or at least obscured for some time. Certainly the people of the old world, even the people of Israel, didn’t have a full understanding of just who God really is and how He was going to bring about their eternal salvation prior to the birth of Jesus.

There were plenty of prophecies of how all this would happen. This morning, our Old Testament lesson from Isaiah, foretold what would happen when God revealed His glory to the world: “Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. “Lift up your eyes and look about you: All assemble and come to you…”All people will be drawn into that glory, and all people will be drawn into God’s family.  And, from our Gospel lesson, we heard the quotation from Micah that was used by Herod’s advisors to direct the wise men to Bethlehem: “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.”

 These clues gave the people of ancient times a bit of a puzzle to consider. Each little revelation, each answer to a prophecy, put more and more information at their disposal. And, using that information, some eager souls attempted to predict the when, the where, and the how of the coming of the Messiah.

It’s kind of like our own day and age, where people attempt to use the far fuller content of the Scriptures to predict the end of times, or the time, the place, and the circumstances of the Savior’s Second Coming. Of course, to do this, they have to set aside Jesus’ own words, they have to disregard what Jesus Himself told us, that no one can predict it, “… for no one knows these things… only the Father.” Too often, though, in ancient times and now, all the speculation on the when, and the where, and the how of the coming of the Messiah misses the what — and, more importantly, it misses the whyof the Messiah’s coming.

Speculation like this will always happen. It is part of our sinful human nature to want to calculate, to speculate, or just plain guess about things which God, in His wisdom, has chosen to keep hidden from us for the time being. The ironic flip-side of that is, of course, that too many times we ignore that which God has already revealed to us.

Consider, for example, what we already know and what we don’t know about the wise men, or the “magi,” who came to worship the one born King of the Jews. We know that they came from the east, but what we don’t know is how far from the east, or that it was necessarily due east from Bethlehem. We can speculate, as others have, that they might have learned the teachings about the Messiah of Israel from Jewish exiles who lived in Babylon or more likely Persia. Or, they could’ve been from Arabia, or even from as far away as modern day India or China; we just don’t know. And, we need to be humble enough before God and with one another to admit that.

My apologies to Christmas card writers and the hymn writers, but we don’t know if these wise men were the “Three Kings of Orient Are.” Nowhere in the Bible does it say they were kings, nor does it say that there were three. (Most people assume there were three wise men because of the three gifts presented, the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, which are mentioned in the Bible.) Isaiah does prophesy that kings will come to the brightness of the Messiah’s rising, but we can’t, with any certainty, connect that verse directly to this particular visit.

And what about the legend that the three wise men were named Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthasar, or any names similar to that? There’s no biblical mention of names. They are probably something that cropped up in the Middle Ages in misguided attempts to answer people’s curious questions, instead of redirecting them to what really is important in this story.

Also of legend, rather than biblical accuracy, is the idea that the wise men rode in on camels. Again, Isaiah mentions that camels of Midian and Ephah and Sheba shall come. But Matthew’s account doesn’t document the wise men’s mode of transportation. There’s nothing wrong with picturing the wise men coming on camels, but there’s nothing to make it a point of certainty, either.

So, about now you’re probably thinking, “What’s your point Vicar? Are purposely trying to ruin our sentimental impressions of Christmas and the manger scene? Are you trying to upset our childhood memories? Or, confuse us with lots of details?”

No, not really. My hope in pointing out such details is that you’ll be encouraged to read the Scriptures, not just more often, but with a greater eye for what they contain and what they do not contain. And I would pray that you will know the difference when you hear people talk. Quite often we hear people say (or we might even say ourselves), “Well, I think the Bible says such-and-such…” But unless we know actually what it does say, offering our opinion can be dangerous, both to them and to us.

Now in these things I brought up here today, it’s really like what Pastor Brian would say, “It’s adiaphora!” It really doesn’t matter because it doesn’t change the important aspects of the Biblical account. It doesn’t change what really matters!

When we actually turn to the Scriptures, we may find that what God’s Word has revealed to us is significantly different, or sometimes even silent on the topic. And, it is sinful for us to quote God’s Word inaccurately for the purpose of convincing people of our own ideas, rather than what God’s Word tells us. We have likely all fallen victim to it at sometime or another.

Another hope I have in suggesting that you consider the content of Scripture more discerningly is that you’ll begin to see the connections God has put there for us much more clearly. Yes, the Bible is a difficult and mysterious book in many ways. But sometimes we make it much more difficult than it needs to be, because we want to carve it up into isolated snippets rather than trying to see the rich, broad minutiae of its tapestry. Sometimes the temptation is to use a particular verse, maybe out of context, to win ego-building arguments, rather than to convey the wholeness of God’s Law and Gospel message to a fallen, lost, and dying world. And in doing so the true message of God’s Word get’s lost.

Again, we should repent of our failings, for the power of God’s Word is not to be used for our own purposes, but for the His glory, and for the benefit of sharing His grace with others. We should pray for the motivation to more diligently and deeply read and study Scripture, pray for the Holy Spirit’s guidance for better clarity and understanding of it, and finally, pray for the courage and opportunities to share that understanding with others, so that they might have their own “epiphanies” with the Lord.

If we allow ourselves to be led by the Holy Spirit, to seek a greater understanding, God will not disappoint us. He will overcome that sinful desire to shape or twist His Word for our own purposes, so that He might accomplish His greater good. He will help us to see how Matthew’s account of the wise men’s visit truly does connect with Isaiah’s prophecy, with Micah’s prophecy, and with the entirety of all the other Bible books, as well. After all, the Bible itself is ultimately the inspired work of God, and not the work of the individual writers.

The wise men’s visit shows us several things. First, it illuminates how the message of God’s salvation through the Messiah had reached out into the world even before Christ’s coming in the flesh. The wise men were not just sitting around one night, observing the sky, and suddenly came to the conclusion on their own that this new star indicated the birth of a king to the Jews. This idea had to have been planted in their minds from some source with an understanding that the coming of the Messiah would be accompanied by great signs, including a great light from the heavens.

Among these revelations, recorded in book of Numbers, chapter 24 Balaam prophesied, “…a star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel.” A special star or other astronomical events such as comets or meteors was taken to symbolize divine validation of a king’s right to rule.

Balaam went on, “Edom shall be dispossessed.” Now it’s no coincidence that Herod, the king who ruled at the time of Jesus’ birth, was not an Israelite king at all, but an Edomite who had been installed by the Romans as their puppet ruler.

When the wise men appeared, telling Herod that a star had arisen in Israel to indicate the birth of a Jewish king, he had good reason to fear for his rule. The Scriptures said that Edom would be dispossessed. You see, Herod was not an Israelite king at all, but an Edomite who had been installed by the Romans as their puppet ruler. Herod knew enough of Israel’s history and of the Jewish religion to realize that God often worked on behalf of Israel through supernatural means. However, the deception and violence Herod used in response, were manifestations of the same evil inclinations that we exhibit whenever we seek to shape things to our own desires, apart from the revealed will of God.

The second important point of this lesson is that prophecies in the Scriptures are fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Even though Herod used Micah’s prophecy about the birth of the Messiah in Bethlehem for despicable purposes, that was to kill innocent children, it nevertheless shows that Jesus’ miraculous birth took place exactly where God had revealed it would, the way God had said it would. For nearly 700 years, since the time of Micah, that information might have seemed of little importance. But in the prophecy’s fulfillment, those few verses take on immeasurable significance.

Thirdly, when the star finally stopped where Jesus was, and the wise men reached the end of their journey, they were pleased beyond measure. The text says, “they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.” They were beside themselves with joy! (similar to the joy we heard bout with Simeon last week.) They may not have realized just what sort of king they were about to encounter, and even though he was merely a child at this point, they knew that something great and miraculous had come into their lives.

If only we could experience such joy when we come into contact with our heavenly King who came from God the Father, was born as an infant to suffer and die on that old rugged cross for our sins! And our life of faith is more than just an emotional experience!

How often do we allow our faith to be lived out in cold drudgery or in a bland routine? The Creator, the Redeemer, and the Sanctifier of the world has revealed Himself to you! He has chosen you to be His own, to receive the full favor of His grace, to receive forgiveness and to give you eternal life with Him in heaven! You should not just be excited about that, you should be joyful, thrilled, energized, and motivated to seek and follow His will!

A final key point of this lesson is that God continued to reveal Himself to the wise men even after they had followed the star and met the miracle of God in the flesh. He used another miraculous means—a dream—to show them His will. And, He prevented them from going back to Jerusalem, and protected the Holy family and the young Baby Jesus, so that His plan and timetable of salvation would not be interrupted or short-circuited by Herod.

You know, God does this for you, too, even today. He continues to reveal Himself to you in miraculous ways: The spoken word brings God’s power into your lives, each and every time you hear the declaration of absolution and the proclamation of the Gospel for the forgiveness of your sins. He doesn’t bring you gold, frankincense, or myrrh, but far more precious gifts of His own body and blood in the Sacrament of the Altar, satisfying your spiritual hunger and quenching your soul’s thirst, even as it burns away your sins with a power brighter and hotter than that of any star.

Maybe faith came to you as an infant or young child as you were baptized by loving, believing parents and given the Holy Spirit’s gifts by water and Word. Maybe, like others, you were reached later in life through the proclamation of that same Living Word, and the Spirit chose to enlighten your heart with the wisdom of the Gospel and then you received the gifts of the Holy Spirit through your baptism.

Either way is fine, really. God has chosen those means—Sacrament and Word, Word and Sacrament—to reveal Himself to us and to draw us near to Him. Through them, He grants us our own epiphanies. They may be personal ones, but they are by no means “little ones”, for the granting of faith is like a tectonic plate shifting in our lives and in our standing in God’s eyes. No longer are you aliens, strangers, and enemies to God. Instead, you are family, made His very own children—reborn, not as kings or queens of the Jews, but as princes and princess of heaven and earth – children of God, redeemed by Christ the Crucified, and royal citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Rejoice that the Lord’s Epiphany has come to you, revealing who He is and re-creating who you are, so that you may join the wise men in “rejoicing with exceedingly great joy” at His coming to the world for your salvation.

In the holy name of our God, who has been made flesh and was revealed to the nations, for all to see, and for all to believe, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.