God’s Great Work Revealed!

How is God using you?  You may not even know the impact your life witness has on someone. Bring God’s light to others. Matthew 2:1-12 shows us “God’s Great Work Revealed!”  January 6, 2019.

King Solomon got to be a part of that something truly great.  The Queen of Sheba came as a surprise visitor knocking on his door, wanting to know more about this famous man and especially his relation to the name of the LORD.  She had wealth, she had riches, all the gold and gems from her homeland she could ever care to have, but she was still empty. She had questions she couldn’t answer.  So, she came to a great man, not following a star, but drawn by a different mystery - a report of something else unusual - unprecedented wisdom and wealth - “where did you get these?”

But the greatest thing Solomon revealed to her was the name of the Lord.  Solomon was a part of a life-changing solution for her because he told about the LORD and his eternal love for his people and his great blessing to Solomon and his great kindness in making Solomon king. God gave Solomon the wisdom he shared with her.  God gave Solomon the opportunity to use his wisdom as king over Israel. God gave Solomon the unparalleled wealth he had accumulated.

The “star” for all to see may have been wisdom and wealth, but it was all there for this great work of sharing the Savior-God with a total stranger.

What’s the point? Please allow me to put some words in your mouth.  Let’s say this is you – you say, “This year, I want to do something great.  It’s 2019 now and I’m only getting older. I want to do something big, accomplish something remarkable; I want to be a part of something special; make a positive difference in people’s lives.”  

Let’s say that’s you and your desire for this New Year.  Why not, right? Well, what you do to fulfill your resolution to do something great?  What if I told you that you could save lives? What if you could be part of a life-changing solution in someone’s life?  You would take it, wouldn’t you? That would be a great 2019! If you want to be a part of something great, then perhaps the first question we need answered is not “what can I do that would be great?” (that’s so 2018), but “what is God up to, that how can I be a part of it?”

The message of this Epiphany Sunday tells us what God is up to.  God’s great work is making Jesus known to all, the Savior God-man, the Babe of Bethlehem, the humble King, the Crucified and Died, the Third-Day Living Proof, the One at the Center of little preacher’s mouths, and even the One who Preaches. He doesn’t always draw people in by incredibly, showy wisdom, or warehouses of wealth first. He brings a stranger into a small conversation with a Christian, he works to cause the rich to worship among the poor, Magi to see a no-name carpenter’s son, he does great work bringing the proud to worship from their knees in a whole new value system.

Look at what God is up to in this lesson.  These Magi enter the Bible from out of nowhere.  The only trace we can guess at is if they were from Persia, formerly Babylon, where Daniel rubbed shoulders with the scholars and rulers and satraps, perhaps God used Daniel to leave an imprint of his name that lasted for five centuries among the people there so that these Magi were looking for the Christ to come. 

They enter Jerusalem like the Queen of Sheba, with nice gifts, but they haven’t come to see King Herod.  They’ve come to sight-see, but to worship. What brought them to Jerusalem at this time? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”  Jesus said, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” God, in his mercy, drew these wise ones to desire Jesus, even before he led them to Jerusalem.  There’s only one who owns the stars and puts them in their place. God also then gave them a special star, a unique sign between him and them just so that they could have this moment – what was it all for? What made it worth the trip? The chance to see Jesus their Savior and worship him.   Look at what God is up to!

These Magi may be a small, brief story in the Bible, but it shows us that there is no one too small, no nation too far away, no soul left as an outsider in God’s plan of salvation.  It also shows how carefully and powerfully God cares for our faith and does his great work.

Can you imagine entering Jerusalem excited to meet God’s King soon, and find that no one else in the city cares?  Would you go to a church no one else cared to be a part of? Why would God have these Magi endure such a letdown experience?  Does he want the Magi to feel lonely? Can they already sense there are two sides of opinions about this newborn King?

What does God do for the Magi by leading them to Jerusalem?  They all hear the Bible passage – it’s even a wake-up call and witness to Herod and to all the religious leaders. It’s also a return to the Word God had left for the Magi to cling to.  God could’ve taken them straight to Bethlehem, but instead he has them hear the Bible passage and find strength in his promise made and kept right before their eyes. The star never spoke, but the Scripture did! Then his star leads them again to Jesus’ house, to the greatest moment of their lives - sure, the newborn Savior didn’t speak, but I’m sure Mary and Joseph did.  And the prepared and wrapped gifts are joyfully given – outward demonstration of great inner delight. You’d expect foreigners to show up and do something foreign and strange. No, this is the same great work of God - this worship and bowing low here is familiar - the one family of faith. God is so perfect with faith in making Jesus known to us!

This is God’s great work.  We celebrate this Epiphany for you and me our “Gentile Christmas” and the fact that God has called us to faith, making Jesus known to us.  Each one of us should take a moment this morning to consider how personally blessed we are that God is doing such a great thing for us! No two of us heard the same sentences...but by one Scripture, one Spirit, one baptism, one faith, here we are seeking to deepen our oneness, our bond to this one family.

That’s why Satan’s most nasty work should not surprise you.  The Bible describes him as an angry, hungry lion out to devour you and your faith.  He’s always hungry, never satisfied. Not content to just close the church’s front door to as many as possible, he also wants to push those inside it out again.

We have to realize that when we are tempted that this Sunday, the drive to church feels more like a chore.  There’s a deeper issue. Spiritual conversations with our children. We don’t have a star urging us to church, but do we recognize all that God is doing and saying that does urge us to come, to grow, to learn, to worship? This week repeats the tradition of last week not to have quiet time with God’s promises and words – no meditation, no reflection, no Bible reading – like last week. Bible journal?  Too much effort – that’s not me. Bible study opportunities – haven’t gone to those much before, why start today? I don’t know anyone. I’m not a morning person. It’s not that urgent for me to be around brothers and sisters in Christ or make getting to know them a priority.”

Oh, the great lion leaping through such easy, idle thoughts! There’s a great threat of sin at work in us to despise God’s Word and refuse to let it be a great part of our lives.    What danger! What sin! That is not God’s will for you! Instead, that’s sinful darkness that threatens to swallow you for eternity.

Something great is at work here! This is a great warning -  a good and honest word from God to you. God is helping you to overcome indifference and apathy.  God is helping you in your struggle with sin and against Satan.

And God is making Jesus known to you today!  We don’t just come to worship a little baby or toddler.  We see the reality here in this way - by the Spirit through the Word.  Jesus is fully made known to us for our salvation! We have heard him preach and promise forgiveness.  We have seen his great work. We have watched him beaten and rejected. We have witnessed his innocent death in our place.  We have entered his tomb and found it empty. We have seen the risen Christ and heard his promise never to leave us. We have seen him go back and ascend to his throne in might for us. For that reason, we are a part of something great – children once of the darkness by nature, now born anew as children of the light!  

Today, sit back for a moment and consider it - see how God is building his church, perfectly executing his plan and making Jesus known, calling his people to faith in each generation, preserved his Word, renewed the truth, and spread the news – all how?  Through his Word, shared by pastors, teachers, parents, friends, people like you and me. People who demonstrated what this meant to them with the use of their resources – their time, their efforts, their words…like gold, frankincense and myrrh.

Marketing teams often hope you will take time to answer the question, “How did you hear about us?” so that they can focus their efforts on the most effect ways of marketing their company to more people.  How did you hear about Jesus? How have others heard about Jesus? What was your star? How was he made known to you? How does he make himself known today?

Was it through family, perhaps persistent parents who knew what great things God did in his Word and spent the time and effort to bring you to Jesus’ feet?  Was it a friend? Was it the result of an invitation, perhaps a persistent invitation? A personal doorstep visit? Was it a warm and friendly church family?  Did God use a Christian example, a gentle spirit, a hard worker, a patient word, a loving deed, a thoughtful encouragement, a smile repeatedly and genuinely given?

We keep track of the answers.  Because you and I want to be part of God’s great work in making Jesus known.  We don’t know much about these Magi, but God did. He used some believer, somewhere, to introduce them to his love and promises.  We don’t know. But that’s the beauty of it.

How is God using you?  You may not even know the impact your life witness has on someone, perhaps someone who isn’t even in your life anymore but remembers you.  Bring God’s light to others. You are part of the greatest work! - for your own salvation and for others. Enter 2019 with Epiphany on your mind, focusing on God’s great work in this world.  You know what God is up to. “Make known among the nations what he has done.” Amen.

Preached at Grace Lutheran Church, Milwaukee, WI on January 6, 2019