“The January 6 Epiphany Insurrection” (Matthew 2:1-12)

The Epiphany of Our Lord
Thursday, January 6, 2022

“The January 6 Epiphany Insurrection” (Matthew 2:1-12)

It’s January 6. A group of visitors travel to the nation’s capital. They are there to raise questions about who the nation’s real leader is. This does not sit well with some in positions of power. They consider people raising such questions in a bad light. They think of those who challenge their authority as “insurrectionists” who need to be put down.

No, I’m not talking about what happened on January 6 one year ago today. That was when a group of protestors went to Washington, D.C., to raise questions about who really won the election. And for the majority of people who were there, it truly was a peaceful protest. But a few malcontents did misbehave and got arrested, and since then, the people in power have used that occasion to put anyone who raises such questions in a bad light. They are eager to use the label, “The January 6 Insurrection.” “Insurrection” is a scarier word than “protest,” or even “riot,” and that’s why they use it.

But that’s not the January 6 insurrection I’m talking about. No, I’m talking about the Epiphany of Our Lord. Epiphany always falls on January 6 every year, right after the twelve days of Christmas. And it is sort of an insurrection, in a way. Epiphany does challenge the power of the rulers of this world. Epiphany does tell us who the real king is. And so our theme for this day, “The January 6 Epiphany Insurrection.”

Our text is the Holy Gospel for this day, from Matthew chapter 2. The visitors are the wise men. They travel to Jerusalem, the capital of the nation of Israel. There they raise questions about who the nation’s real leader is. “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews.?” This does not sit well with the current king, Herod the Great. He wants to eradicate this threat to his power. So he comes up with a scheme that will lead him to this infant usurper, so he can then get him out of the picture. He will use the wise men to locate the child for him, on the pretense that he too wants to go worship him. Of course, what he really wants to do is to kill him. Look, the powers of this world do not like it when their authority is threatened. They will go to extreme lengths to prevent it and to snuff the threat out.

And so the wise men set out to find the one born king of the Jews. The prophecies say the Messiah will be born in Bethlehem, and to Bethlehem they are sent. They are guided, not by a bad light but by a good one, the star God provided to lead them to the place where the child was. “When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.” Notice, it doesn’t just say, “they rejoiced.” It doesn’t just say, “they rejoiced exceedingly.” It doesn’t even say, “they rejoiced exceedingly with joy.” No, it says, “they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.” Why such exceedingly great joy? Because the star is leading them to an exceedingly great Savior! The prophecies of the Messiah to come tell of one who will be king not only of the Jews but of the Gentiles also. These wise men, visitors from the pagan lands to the east–they too will be included in his kingdom of blessing and salvation. They find the infant king. They fall down and worship him. “Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.” Costly gifts. Gifts fit for a king.

This child, the Christ child, is the world’s true king. The powers of this world think that they are in charge, and so they want to get him out of the picture. That’s what Herod tried, wasn’t it? But God had other plans. The wise men were warned not to return to Herod. So then Herod tried plan B. He had all the baby boys in Bethlehem slaughtered, figuring he’d get the one born king of the Jews killed in the process. But that didn’t work either. God had other plans.

The rulers of this world assert their power, and they persecute those who worship the Christ. They make their plans and their schemes, but in the end they will not prevail. As the psalmist says: “Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying, ‘Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.’ He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision.”

Even so, even though they will not triumph in the end, the powers of this world will lash out at those who belong to Christ. We seem threatening to them, because we do not bow the knee to their supposed superiority. The god of this world right now, at least in Europe and America, is secularism, which means, living without particular religious beliefs and practices. “Organized religion” is seen as the great enemy. That’s a put-down, by the way. “Oh, I don’t believe in organized religion.” See, it’s okay to be “spiritual,” whatever that means, but “religious”? That’s right out.

So Christians, because we make church a priority . . . because we believe in moral standards of right and wrong and call sin “sin” . . . because we do not worship the gods that the world worships, false gods like money or entertainment or pleasure . . . because we believe that Judgment Day is coming and there is only one Savior who can help us on that day, and that is Jesus Christ–for these reasons, the world hates us and wants to at least marginalize and mock us, if not outright kill us. By our very existence we are challenging their authority. The fact that, like the wise men, we worship and bow down only to King Jesus–this is seen as insurrection by the powers that be.

But we know a king who is greater than all the kings of this world, and that is our Lord Jesus Christ. He is King of kings and Lord of lords. He is the only king we worship. “Blessed are all who take refuge in him.” Friends, take refuge in the Son of God. He will protect you. The world will do its worst, but Christ Jesus will do his best for you.

Think of what Jesus has already done for you! The one the wise men called “king of the Jews,” when will he be called that again? The one born king of the Jews will die “king of the Jews” also. That’s the title Pilate placed over Jesus’ head when he was crucified. “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?” On a cross. You can find this king hanging on a cross, wearing a crown of thorns. There you will see your Savior, shedding his holy blood to win your forgiveness and your salvation.

“Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?” You can look in a tomb, but you won’t find him there anymore. The Epiphany insurrection leads, through death, to an Easter resurrection. Our king is alive and is reigning forevermore. And he will share with you, you who are baptized into Christ–he will share with you his resurrection unto eternal life.

“Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?” Today you can find him right here, in this church and at this altar. Here he gives you his very body and blood for the forgiveness of your sins. And “where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation.”

That’s something to rejoice over, isn’t it? The wise men, when they saw the star, “rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.” Likewise, when we see all that God has done and will do for us in Christ, we too rejoice exceedingly with great joy.

The Herods of this world will do their worst, but Christ has done and will do his best for us. The world will label us with all sorts of nasty names: “religious kooks,” “weirdos,” maybe even “insurrectionists.” But God will call us his own dear children, and I’m okay with that. The world will say we’re “out of step with the times.” Well, okay, I’ll take that too. I’m glad I’m out of step with the times! Christians will always be out of step with the world’s values. It comes with the territory. Get used to it.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are staging “The January 6 Epiphany Insurrection.” By acknowledging and worshiping the one true king, Jesus Christ, we present a challenge to all the false kings that the world worships. They feel threatened by it, but we feel greatly comforted. And we rejoice exceedingly with great joy, for God’s grace is shining like a star, shining with the light of life, leading us to where our true king is.

Published in: on January 5, 2022 at 11:17 pm  Leave a Comment  
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