Devotion 52 – Epiphany (Morning)

Opening Devotion

Oh, praise the Lord, all you Gentiles! Laud Him, all you peoples! For His merciful kindness is great toward us, And the truth of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord! (Psa 117)

Text: Matthew 2:1-12

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” When Herod the king heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet: ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are not the least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you shall come a Ruler who will shepherd My people Israel.'” Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search diligently for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.” When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way.

Devotion

The Wise Men are servants and worshippers of Christ. They go on His mission and they spread forth the fragrance of His Name. But in Herod and the scribes we find His enemies. The real people of Christ’s kingdom look up and see what others do not see. Their hearts belong to the invisible realm, and they walk according to a different law than the children of unbelief. Jesus Christ is their King, and in all things they seek to promote His glory. When they realize that it is His will, they leave their homeland and their father’s house and go to a foreign people (Gen 12). For Him they willingly offer gold and treasure and all that they have. They worship Him, and for Him they seek to gather souls from near and far. God’s countenance in Christ, the Sun over our earth, has broken through before their eyes. Eternal and heavenly things have become real and present for their hearts, and therefore they live no longer for themselves, but for Him who loved us and gave Himself for us. In other words: They believe without seeing. They follow the Star, that is God’s Light in His deeds, and they follow the Word, the holy Scriptures. The Wise Men followed the Star, so when they came to the Scripture that pointed to Bethlehem, they went accordingly and then again the Star accompanied them on their way to Christ.

Herod and the scribes were completely different. They have the Word, but they see only the letter and don’t care about Christ as the King of their souls. The world is everything to them. They live only for what is earthly. The eternal and divine is nothing to their heart. So they don’t bother to go to Bethlehem. “If there is anything to what these men say” – Herod thinks – “then I will make myself secure in good time,” and therefore he asks them to come back to him.

This is exactly what the children of the world among us are like. They know the Word, and most do not deny its truth, but its heavenly and living content, Christ, is not in their heart. So they do not worship Him in truth, they do not offer themselves to Him, they do not live for Him, they do not offer their treasures to His glory. Some of them may take part in the charitable works of missions and the church, but their heart is not in it, and when it comes to a real test, they deny Him.

But our Gospel also shows that all must serve the Lord, and that He frees them from the wiles of the devil. Stars of heaven and earthly highways, astronomy, natural science, railroads, waterways, gold and incense, Herod and the scribes – the Lord wants to use all things and all people to spread His kingdom. Who triumphed: Herod or Christ? Who attained their goal: the Wise Men or the scribes of Jerusalem?

Closing Prayer

You, poor Child of Bethlehem, later the despised and crucified Nazarene, now the glorified King of heaven, You my heart’s Sun and Magnet, draw us to You. Assure us that Your right hand shall gain the victory, and show us as much of Your glory as we can bear, so that we may gladly walk in Your ways. Yes, draw us unto You, make us Your servants, spread forth Your kingdom. Let the wealth of the Gentiles and the abundance of the sea come quickly to You (Isa 60:5). Amen.

Hymn

May God bestow on us His grace,
With blessings rich provide us,
And may the brightness of His face
To life eternal guide us;
That we His saving health may know,
His gracious will and pleasure,
And also to the heathen show
Christ’s riches without measure,
And unto God convert them.

Thine over all shall be the praise
And thanks of every nation,
And all the world with joy shall raise
The voice of exultation;
For Thou shalt judge the earth, O Lord,
Nor suffer sin to flourish.
Thy people’s pasture is Thy Word,
Their souls to feed and nourish,
In righteous paths to keep them.

Luther: L 28:1-2. ELH 591:1-2 tr. R. Massie, alt.;
tune: Es woll uns Gott

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