Devotion for Wednesday, January 6, 2021
Lectionary Readings for the Epiphany of our Lord:
Collect: O God, by the leading of a star You made known Your only-begotten Son to the Gentiles. Lead us, who know You by faith, to enjoy in heaven the fullness of Your divine presence; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Hymns of the Day: “O Morning Star, How Fair and Bright” – (LSB 395)
While the hymn of the day for this blessed feast of the Epiphany of our Lord is, as listed above, ‘O Morning Star, How Fair and Bright’, the hymn I always think of on Epiphany is LSB 397 – “As with Gladness Men of Old.” This hymn so clearly takes the event of the Epiphany and lays it out so nicely.
But what is the Epiphany, and why do I say that? Well, let’s use that hymn to explain.
As with gladness men of old Did the guiding star behold;
As with joy they hailed its light, Leading onward, beaming bright;
So, most gracious Lord, may we Evermore be led by Thee.
First off, what does the word Epiphany mean? The religious use of the word “epiphany” does share the idea of a discovery or a realization with its secular counterpart, but to us, we recognize that this realization comes by means of revelation, God’s revelation to us. God reveals Himself to us, makes Himself known to us, and that is an epiphany. We could not have arrived at this conclusion by our own reason or observation, and we needed God to shine the light for us. In the case of the Epiphany of our Lord, quite literally.
God shone His light upon the world to reveal His coming in the form of the star above Bethlehem. God had already revealed Himself to His people Israel way back in the Old Testament, but now, God was directly revealing Himself to everyone else through the star. The Wisemen coming from the east were not Jews: they were Gentiles. This marks the first time since making His covenant with Abraham that God directly reveals Himself to one who is not part of His chosen people. This light called to the wisemen and led them to the infant Jesus where they recognized His significance giving Him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. This day is often called the Gentile Christmas for that reason. God has come for the whole world. Jews and Gentiles alike.
The verse ends in the same was as our collect of the day does, asking God to shine His light on us as well, as He did the wise men, to lead us to His heavenly halls when our journey here on earth is complete. Why? Because now we too are part of that promise of salvation, not just Abraham’s physical descendants.
As with joyful steps they sped, Saviour, to Thy lowly bed,
There to bend the knee before Thee, whom heav’n and earth adore;
So may we with willing feet Ever seek Thy mercy seat.
As with the Wisemen of old, we are now invited to the place our Saviour is to receive from Him the gifts that He offers us. We are called to worship Him and come into His presence to hear His Word and receive His Sacraments to our benefit – to have our sins forgiven, and our faith strengthened. And while there are times were this is difficult, where getting together is a challenge, He still calls us to do so as we are able, because this is where, in our faith, we should always long to be – sitting and listening at the feet of our Saviour and not just slaving away in the kitchen as we learn with Mary and Martha elsewhere in His Word.
As Christians, we long to gather together in God’s house, and when the reality of the situation wars with that longing, it causes frustrations, apprehension, guilt, defensiveness, and sometimes outright anger both at the situation and at other people for a myriad of reasons. But God knows your struggles, and more than that, He knows Your heart. Leave your cares and worries to Him and trust that no matter where you find yourself as you hear His Word, that He is working through it in you, and instead worrying, look forward to the time when you are able to gather together once more in His house.
As they offered gifts most rare At Thy cradle, rude and bare,
So may we with holy joy, Pure and free from sin’s alloy,
All our costliest treasures bring, Christ, to Thee, our heav’nly King.
Like the wisemen; having come into His presence; having seen Him through His holy Word; having received the gifts that He won for us on Calvary so long ago – we too should come to Him bringing our costliest gifts in thanksgiving. The Wisemen didn’t use their gifts to earn favour with an earthly power, they left them with a poor carpenter and his teenage bride. They didn’t only give them some of the treasures they had packed on their camels, but all the gold, frankincense and myrrh that they had brought to give the one “who had been born king of the Jews” despite His rude (lowly/humble) state. They gave joyfully, not out of duty or obligation, but with joy that they could give their gifts to the one God had sent to rule them.
We too, should give joyfully, as they did, in worshipful thanksgiving. Not because we have to, but because we want to. But our costliest treasures aren’t what we put into our offering envelopes every month, are they. No. Our costliest treasures, the most valuable things we have, are our very lives and the lives of those whom God has entrusted to us to care for, nurture and help to grow. We should always, joyfully, remember that these are gifts from our heavenly Father, and should desire to ‘give them all back to Him’ by being in the Word and teaching it to our loved ones. Living our faith that we can be a blessing in the lives of those around us and an encouragement to them in their faith walks. We should always do our darndest to make sure that we are living for God – offering ourselves as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1) – and by doing so, being a light for those who dwell in darkness (Luke 11:33).
Holy Jesus, ev’ry day Keep us in the narrow way;
And when earthly things are past, Bring our ransomed souls at last
Where they need no start to guide, where no clouds Thy glory hide.
Having come to God after He called us; having acknowledged that He is the giver of every good and perfect gifts, not the least of which being our eternal salvation through the work of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ where he ransomed our souls, that is, bought them back from sin, death and the power of the devil – we ask that He would continue to keep us in the true faith all the days of our journey and guide us along the path to our final destination, to our future eternal home with Him. We know that in this home we will no longer need Him to shine His star to guide us, because we will be with Him in a place where nothing could ever separate us from Him ever again.
In the heav’nly country bright Need they no created light;
Thou its light, its joy, its crown, Thou its sun which goes not down;
There forever may we sing Alleluias to our King.
22 And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. 23 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. 24 By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, 25 and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. 26 They will bring into it the glory and the honour of the nations. (Revelation 21:22-26)
In this eternal resting place, all peoples will be joined together around the throne of the Lamb singing praises to our King for all eternity. It will be paradise, and more than that, we will know true, ultimate love for the first time. Love not marred or corrupted by sin, not stinted or dimmed by our own selfishness or desires, but true ‘agape’ love. It will be…well…it will be fantastic. There is really no way to describe it as there is nothing on earth that can compare.
And that, my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, is what the Epiphany of our Lord is all about. It’s about the wisemen gentiles, coming to the promised Messiah. It’s about God’s promise of salvation, not just for the Jews, but also for everyone else. It’s about the reason that the Christ came in the first place – to be the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, through His death and resurrection.
I would like to wish you all a very blessed Epiphany, and a truly joyous and happy New Year as well. I look forward to seeing you all again in the coming year.