Gospel of the Week – January 6th

Matthew 2:1-12 – The Visit of the Wise Men

And now we’ve reached the “A-HA!” moment of the season of Christmas. It’s the moment that Christ is revealed, not just to the Jews, but to all the nations! This is Epiphany! It is the “Second Christmas” of our Lord. For the Gentiles have now come to see the Christ and to worship Him.

The Magi, wise men from the east, have come across from distant lands following “His star” (v. 2). They meet up with Herod the king and ask where the child is. Herod, as one would expect, is upset that there is a child out there who would be considered a king, and could come to take his throne. For Herod, a wicked ruler, was ruthless and was determined to kill off any who would seek to take his power from him. So he attempted to trick the wise men into thinking he wanted to worship the child, and sent them off with instructions to find the baby and tell him where the child was. God, however, had other ideas, and after leading the wise men to Jesus, warned them to go home a different way.

You might ask, if Herod was such an evil man, why the Magi would go to him first? Surely, they had to know who he was. Someone would have let them in on what Herod was like. It is the gifts of the Magi that tell us so much. They brought with them gold, frankincense, and myrrh. These are the gifts worthy of a king, and one would expect to go to Herod the King to give the gifts.

But, Jesus wasn’t with the king. He wasn’t even in a palace. This was the same Jesus who was born in a dirty manger, in a cave, behind a hotel, in the middle of a nowhere town like Bethlehem. This was the king they came to see. You would imagine they would be surprised to find a poor carpenter, his wife, and child. After all, it’s just Joseph, Mary, and Jesus, a little family in a backwater town in Judea.

And yet they worshipped Him. They “fell down,” as verse 11 says, and presented Him and His mother with the finest of gifts. They came in faith to be in the presence of Jesus. It was faith that led them to follow the star, faith in the Word of God from verse 6 (taken from Micah 5:2), faith in the dream given them by the Lord to protect the Son. The Holy Spirit worked faith even in strangers from distant lands, who traveled to be with Jesus. Faith to find the King in a poor man’s house, and to worship Him.

The Spirit works faith in us, too. Faith that brings us to church on Sunday; faith that walks with us to the font and the rail; faith that puts us in presence of Christ in our Baptism and in the Holy Supper; faith in Christ, given by the Spirit through the Word. Galatians 3:26, “For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.”

Come and worship the Christ. Live in faith like the Magi, and the words of the Venite in Matins:

Oh come, let us sing to the Lord;
let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
For the Lord is a great God,
and a great King above all gods.
In his hand are the depths of the earth;
the heights of the mountains are his also.
The sea is his, for he made it,
and his hands formed the dry land.
Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!
For he is our God,
and we are the people of his pasture,
and the sheep of his hand.

Psalm 95:1-7

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The Meaning of the Advent Wreath

We’ve all seen it, the wreath in the front of the church.  It’s brought out of the back or the downstairs storage closet every year right around Thanksgiving, dusted off, and put up by the pulpit.  The acolyte comes out and lights one or more candles throughout Advent, and it adds to the lighting and majesty of our preparations for the coming of Christmas.  But what do those four (or five) candles mean?  Why is a new one lit each week?  And what is up with the PINK ONE?!

From an lcms.org/faq document concerning questions about Worship/Congregational Life and the Church Year:

The traditional use of Advent candles (sometimes held in a wreath) originated in eastern Germany even prior to the Reformation. As this tradition came down to us by the beginning of this century, it involved three purple candles and one pink candle. The purple candles matched the purple paraments on the altar (purple for the royalty of the coming King). The pink candle was the third candle to be lit (not the fourth) on Gaudete Sunday, the Third Sunday of Advent. “Gaudete” means “Rejoice!” in Latin, which is taken from Philippians 4:4.  

(“Rejoice! . . . the Lord is near”). Hence a “pink” candle was used to signify “rejoicing.” Some also included a white “Christ candle” in the middle to be lit during the 12 days of Christmas (December 25-January 5).

We light a new candle each week to signify the coming of Christmas, and the excitement of Christ’s birth.  It’s a countdown of sorts, there to remind us that He, Christ Jesus,our Lord and King, came into the world.  He was a baby, born of woman, grew, learned, ate, breathed, walked, talked, worked, taught, suffered, died, rose again, and will return.  Until then, we can still partake in Him in the Holy Supper, receiving from Him the forgiveness of sins bought and paid for on the cross, when He took on the weight of the sins of all mankind.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.  Whoever believes in Him is not condemned,” John 3:16-18a.

Come, Lord Jesus!