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Epiphany of The Lord, January 7, 2024

Matthew 2:1-12. I want us to get on the same page with a few definitions.  

          #1 Epiphany is the Christian feast celebrating the manifestation of the divine nature of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles.  Remember that Gentiles means everyone in the world who is not a Jew. 

          Epiphany is represented by the visit of the wise men from a foreign country and is celebrated on January 6 or the closest Sunday; Today is EPIPHANY SUNDAY.

          Epiphany is also defined as a revelatory manifestation of a divine being; similar to a “theophany”- an appearance of GOD. 

          A third definition is, a sudden manifestation of the essence or meaning of something.  Or a comprehension or perception of reality by means of a sudden intuitive realization.  For example, "He seemed to experience an epiphany, a spiritual awakening that changed his life.”  End quote.

          Epiphany is all of those things and so much more.

          The wise men came by the light of the Star.  Epiphany is a festival of lights; the 12th day of Christmas. 

          Linde Flanders read this quote from “Celtic Teas With Friends,” written by Elizabeth Knight, “Shetland Islanders, who lived in the northernmost Scottish Isles, called Epiphany Old Christmas or Second Christmas.  In Ireland, the Feast went my many names, including Little Christmas and Nolloig n amban or Women’s Christmas, but it was celebrated with a splendid tea party to which only women were invited.  This charming custom was popular in rural communities, especially the south and west of Ireland, as late as the 1940’s, but in recent years it has spread to cities, including those with large Irish immigrant communities, in Canada and Australia.”

          Linde shared, “On Twelfth Night the Flanders Household takes down the Christmas decorations off the front door (if it's not too cold) and gathers up other items from around the house to be stored.  I don't usually take down the Christmas tree until the end of January or sometimes the end of February.  The neighbors across the lake probably think I'm crazy but on these grey, overcast days I like having my home lit by the light of the Christ Child via the Christmas tree.” 

          There are over 270 references to the word “light’ in the Bible.  I’m going to lift up just a few.

          From the very first chapter in the Bible, Genesis 1:3, “And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.”  “God saw that the light was good, and He separated the light from the darkness.”

          In John’s Gospel chapter 1, where we hear about GOD’S Word, Jesus.  Please hear verse 4 and following, “In him was life, and the life was the light of men.  5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. 6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.  7 He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him.  8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.  9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. 

          John 8 verse 12, “Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.’”

          Did you hear that?  If we follow Jesus, we “will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life!”

          And now we get to today’s Scripture from Matthew chapter 2 on page 807 of our pew Bibles, where the wise men from the east asked King Herod, “Where is he who has been born a king of the Jews for we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” 

          Herod was troubled, and asked his folks where was this to happen.  We pick up the story in verse 8, And he (Herod) sent them (the wise men) to Bethlehem, saying, "Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him." 

          Friends, we know that Herod didn’t want to worship Jesus.

          Verse 9, “After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 

          10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him.  Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.”

                    Linde explained, “That some Biblical scholars think it may have taken 18-24 months for the Magi to travel to find Jesus so he may have been a toddler not the infant we commonly think of.  I also said it has been speculated the Holy Family needed the gift of gold to finance their trip to Egypt.” 

                    As God’s Word tells us, every one doesn’t see the light and go to the light of Jesus Christ; many stay in the darkness, because their deeds are not of GOD.

                    Please hear the next part of the story in Matthew verse 12 and following, “And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.  13 Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him."

          14 And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt 15 and remained there until the death of Herod.  This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, "Out of Egypt I called my son."  16 Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men.  17 Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah: 18"A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more."

          I believe these are some of the most tragic verses in the Bible.

                    Yes, we know that throughout history there are people like Herod that want to kill the light.  In 1st John 1 verse 5, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” 

          So how do we fight the darkness?

                    Jesus makes it clear that he is the Light of the World and tells us in Matthew 5:14-16, from the Message Translation, “Here's another way to put it: You're here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world.  God is not a secret to be kept. 

          We're going public with this, as public as a city on a hill.  If I make you light-bearers, you don't think I'm going to hide you under a bucket, do you?  I'm putting you on a light stand.  Now that I've put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand--shine!” 

          “Keep open house; be generous with your lives.  By opening up to others, you'll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.” 

          That’s how we fight the darkness!!  Friends, On this Epiphany Sunday please know—We are Light Bearers!!

                    Ok, so are you with me?  Jesus is the light of the world.  If we follow him we will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.  And then he tells us that as disciples we are the light for others to know salvation

                    We are all different.  We are created by GOD as unique human beings and therefore we shine the light of Christ Jesus differently!!

                    So why isn’t the whole world lit up?  So what’s going on?  With all of these churches, all of these disciples, why isn’t the world ablaze with the light of God’s Glory?

                    1st John 1:5 and following says it all, “This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.  6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 

          7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.”

                    Like King Herod, you know that others still go to the darkness because they don’t know the light of Jesus Christ.

                    My friends, at our Strategic Planning we set two goals:

          Goal #1—Create a “Reach Team” to create a community outreach presence by offering our Fellowship Room for outside groups (AA, NA, Grief Support, Cancer Support, Grandparents Raising Grand Kids.)  Creating relationships to make disciples by February 1, 2024.

          Goal #2—Develop four “Life Groups” of at least four people by June 1, 2024 who will meet at least once a month whose purpose is to develop relationships and care for one another.  A Survey with no names and ten options will be presented to church by February 1 to choose groups.

                    Please pray for use to use these efforts to bring more Christ Light to our community.

                    Some of you have heard this story, but it bares repeating. 

                    Rabbi Will Berkovitz wrote, “Many years ago there was a child who wouldn’t go to sleep.  She just kept staring out the window into the night.  Exasperated, her father finally asked, “What are you looking at out there?”

          Pulling back the curtain, all he saw were the old lamplighters who went about their nightly task with a ladder and a torch, setting the street lamps aflame for the night.  The young girl saw something deeper.  Turning back to her father, she said, “Look at those men!  They are punching holes in the darkness!”

          And that is our task as well — to punch holes in the darkness and share freely the light we were given, so that it may ignite the flames of hope to those around us.  And in so doing, the light from the heavens will not be diminished, but will burn even brighter.

          WE CAN PUNCH HOLES IN THE DARKNESS!!

          Folks, people are dying an eternal death because Christ’s light hasn’t reached them.

          We can carry The Light of Jesus Christ to rescue people from sure and certain death, if we will just allow the Light of Jesus in our lives and let our light shine before others. 

          My friends, We can light the path so that other can find their way to Jesus.

         

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