Preached at Wascana Ciruit Epiphany Service, Mount Olive Lutheran Church, Regina
In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Arise, shine, for your light has come! It has come to you from the east, Oh Jerusalem. (Isa. 60:1, 6; Matt. 2:1-3) From the rising of the sun. From amidst the nations. (Isa. 60:2, 5-6) Those nations you considered scorned, and cast off by God. The same God who told Abraham that through His seed all the families of the earth would be blessed. (Gen. 12:3) The same God who has always intended to save all mankind, since the fall of the first man and first woman (Gen. 3:15) promising that her Seed would crush the head of the serpent, killing all its works and all its ways for all her children.
O Jerusalem, wisemen, sages from afar came to visit you bringing fine gifts of gold and spices. (Matt. 2:11) Just as the Queen of Sheba did to Solomon, the son of David, 900 years earlier. (1 Kings 10:1-10) Arise, shine, increase your joy, oh Jerusalem! For your king has come. His glory rises upon you and the kings of earth bow down to Him, just as Solomon prophesied in Psalm 72 (Ps. 72:8-11) and Isa said in chapter 60 (Isa. 60:3, 6) saying that the camel trains of Sheba, Midian and Ephah—nations south and east of Israel—would cover hills of Israel and bring gifts of gold and spices and costly stones. The wealth of the nations. (Isa. 60:5) Gifts fit for a king. To you. For to you, Jerusalem, come the nations. Just as Isaiah had said, “The house of Lord will be house of prayer for all nations.” (Isa. 56:7)
Arise and shine! For those nations have come to you to bring you good news. (Isa. 60:6b) To tell of the salvation of the Lord. They come to you Jerusalem, city of God, to bring God’s news to you. Or as Simeon said, “To cause the falling and rising of many in Israel,” for “He is light for revelation to the Gentiles and the glory of His people Israel.” (Luke 2:34, 32) But He would be opposed. Opposed by that Idumean, King Herod. Herod from Idumea—Edom, the ancient cousins of Israel, who were to the south and east of Jerusalem. While the prophecies said the nations would come to bow down to Israel’s king, this foreign king—who ruled Israel in the time of Jesus—had no interest in bowing down to Him. He opposed this king with the most complete and final form of opposition: death. (Matt. 2:16-18) And in order to put a period on the end of his sentence of judgement he killed all the boys of Bethlehem from the moment the star appeared on down. (Matt. 2:16-18, 7-9) And Herod fell. Fell into fear and madness. Fell in unbelief and eternal death. Herod is remembered to this day not only for his gargantuan building projects, but also for his enormous paranoia and jealousy of any possible rival. But not as a wise man who worshipped the King.
Whereas these magi—these wisemen of the east, from the rising of the sun—they are esteemed. They are extolled. They are hymned and sung about in joy for long ages since they made their visitation to Christ our King. For they proclaimed good news to Jerusalem. They increased her joy. They proclaimed Christ their saviour’s coming. Coming for all nations. For all the families of earth.
They shone God’s light on Jerusalem by their words. For this is always how God our God has worked. He works by His mighty Word. He proclaims it to you by the messengers He sends. Even by messengers who come from afar. By messengers whom you least expect. By messengers who had read His words from Numbers 24. Words spoken by the mouth of Balaam, a wicked prophet of eastern lands. Nonetheless the Lord spoke through Him in order to bless Israel, saying, “a star shall come out of Jacob and a sceptre shall arise from Israel.” (Num. 24:17) This is likely the clear word that the Magi read in order to rightly interpret the glorious star that had risen.
So rise Jerusalem. Shine! Your star has come. And its glory is not for you alone. For though it brings the wealth of nations to you, its glory is for revelation to the Gentiles. (Luke 2:32) For that is the wealth of the nations. Not just gold and spices and costly gems (Isa. 6:6; Ps. 72:11, 15; 1 Kings 10:10), but souls—heart who cling to and bow down to this glorious Lord in faith. So that all might not be cast off from the Lord our God forever. But by faith in His Son who came to save, who came to crush serpent & all His works & all His ways, you might be saved. (Eph. 3:6, 11-12)
For you, Jerusalem, are no longer merely a physical city on earth. You are now the spiritual embodiment of all God’s people. From every nation. Nations come to you. (Isa. 60:3) For from you and through you came Christ our Lord. He who for long ages inhabited your Temple in cloud and majesty and awe. He who now has come in our flesh. (John 1:1-3, 14) And with HIs flesh saved you from your sins by nailing your sins in His flesh to the cross.
For as Isaiah said, “Behold darkness, deep darkness covers the peoples” the nations, the earth. (Isa. 60:2) It’s the same phrase as what covered Mount Sinai when the Lord descended on that mountain top to give His law. (Heb. 12:18; Exod. 20:21) He terrified the Israelites below so that they said, “Moses you speak to us. We can not hear the voice of Lord, lest we die!” (Exod. 20:19) And so darkness, deep darkness covers peoples because His law is in your heart. So that your conscience now accuses you, now defends you. (Rom. 2:15) But it never lets you be. It is always there. It is always letting you know something is dreadfully wrong in this world. With you. With others. With everything. Letting you know that this is the place of sin and error, not of righteousness and joy. So that darkness and the dread of judgement and the fear of death covers the peoples. (Isa. 60:2) But now the light of the Lord has risen upon you. Dispelling your darkness. (Isa. 60:3) Casting out sin. By Christ’s forgiveness. Crushing the serpent under His foot. (Gen. 3:15) Granting God’s good grace and mercy. His eternal pleasure, not wrath. His joy, not fear. His peace, not His warfare against your sin. For His Christ has fought your darkness in His own flesh and overcome it, giving you His light.
The message of the eastern sages has risen upon you: that your joy has come. That Jerusalem is now spiritual home of not just Jews, not just Jesus’ ppl according to the flesh, but of all people. For Christ has come to His temple as a final sacrifice for sin granting salvation. He has come to His capital and been revealed as the eternal Son of David who shall rule His Church forever. He was enthroned and lifted up in the sight of all peoples on a day of deep darkness on the cross. The ends of earth now know that He is the Lord and saviour of all. And instead of the peoples of the earth being covered in the deep darkness of God’s judgement against sin they are now covered in His glorious light of forgiveness which shines forth from the cross. For there our glorious king was lifted up and exalted as both king of the Jews and saviour of the world.
In +Jesus’ name, Amen.
Pastor David Haberstock
—Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church