Last year, I featured excerpts from a sermon on Epiphany by an LCMS pastor, the Revd Charles Henrickson of St Matthew’s Lutheran Church in Bonne Terre, Missouri.

This year’s thoughts on Epiphany come from a 2011 sermon from the pastor of Salem Lutheran Church in Gretna, Louisiana.  He blogs as Father Hollywood.

As Christians who observe Christmastide know, Epiphany is also known as Twelfth Night and marks the end of this joyous season.

The reason we give gifts to each other at Christmas is in remembering the Magi’s — the Three Wise Men’s — example to the infant Jesus.

For his 2011 sermon, Father Hollywood used the Lectionary text of Isaiah 60:1-6:

1Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee.

 2For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the LORD shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee.

 3And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.

 4Lift up thine eyes round about, and see: all they gather themselves together, they come to thee: thy sons shall come from far, and thy daughters shall be nursed at thy side.

 5Then thou shalt see, and flow together, and thine heart shall fear, and be enlarged; because the abundance of the sea shall be converted unto thee, the forces of the Gentiles shall come unto thee.

 6The multitude of camels shall cover thee, the dromedaries of Midian and Ephah; all they from Sheba shall come: they shall bring gold and incense; and they shall shew forth the praises of the LORD.

Below are a few excerpts from Father Hollywood’s sermon; if you have a few minutes, please stop by his blog to read it in full. Emphases below are mine:

Darkness can be a good thing. Nobody wants to eat a nice meal in what appears to be a surgeon’s operating room. And a lot of people are unable to sleep with the light on. But typically, darkness symbolizes ignorance, crime, sneakiness, and evil.

And similarly, light symbolizes knowledge, propriety, openness, and righteousness.

Isaiah takes up this theme of darkness and light when he prophesies: “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.”

He tells the people to “shine” with the reflected light that shines on them. It is the light of the “glory of the Lord.” It emanates from God and dispels the gloom of the sinful and fallen world. And Isaiah continues: “For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples.”

This darkness of our present age hangs like a pall, covering the face of the earth like a cloth draping a body in the morgue. This is the darkness of sin, of evil, of death; the darkness that causes men to stumble and despair. It is the darkness that can be overcome by one thing, and one thing alone: “but the Lord will arise upon you. And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.”

… The darkness of the captivity of Israel will not only come to an end, but Israel shall shine like a beacon, illuminating the darkness of the Gentiles who do not know God.

The prophet speaks of camels and travelers, and of gold and frankincense being presented as gifts. And these travelers from afar are also bringing “good news, the praises of the Lord.”

Isaiah’s prophecy is called to mind every time we set up a nativity set, and the camel stands in the presence of Jesus as the wise men – usually depicted as three men – open their treasures of gold, frankincense, and myrrh – kingly gifts for a baby King who is also a Prophet and Priest.

For the good news of the coming of Jesus to dispel the darkness of our sin-draped and death-covered world is too radiant to be kept hidden under a veil, or contained in a manger, or hoarded by the children of Israel. No indeed! The brightness of the Lord’s coming is manifested not only in the shining of the angels in the heavens, but by the heavens themselves, as a mysterious star heralds and guides the travelers through the darkness by heavenly light to the very Light of the World, the Lord of the heavens and the earth!

The Lord Himself guides these Gentile travelers, navigating them around the dark and wicked plans of the brooding Herod, drawing them to the baby Jesus in the flesh, so that they might “worship” him. For this is no ordinary prophet, priest, or king. He is truly “the” Prophet who is the living and active prophetic voice of God; He is “the” Priest who sacrifices Himself as the all-availing oblation to atone for the sins of the whole world; and He is “the” King of the universe, the fleshly manifestation of the God who has created all things, and who governs all things – not by raw power, but by love and mercy

For that which was “hidden for ages,” namely God’s plan to “bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery” is done so in Christ. He, and He alone, is the Light that dispels the darkness of sin and death. And this Light is not spread by candles or laser beams – but rather as St. Paul says, by the grace of preaching.

For the God who “created all things” is now, in Christ’s manger and at Christ’s cross, the one who “might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.” And this manifestation of the Light of Christ is delivered “through the church.”

That means us, dear friends! …

It is pretty amazing that these three kings made an extensive journey over many months to present costly gifts to this unknown infant, resting with His earthly parents in the lowliest of conditions.

And it’s even more amazing that Christians today have that continuing promise of His light, love and salvation that Isaiah prophesied to Israel’s people so long ago.

So, whilst we take our tree and decorations down for another year and carefully place the nativity set back in its box, let us say a prayer of humble thanks for God’s greatest gift to us, that of His Son our Lord Jesus Christ.

In closing, if you find people writing K+M+B on their doors today, here’s why.

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