As we celebrate the Epiphany of Our Lord today, we read a devotion from Book of Prayer and Meditations on the Scriptures.
Read the propers for today on lutherancalendar.org.
The star that appeared to the Magi and led them to Jesus was not of this world; it was sent by God. Faith in Christ, too, is not of this world but a gift given to us by God. As we celebrate Epiphany today, let us remember the true origin of our faith, and that because of that faith we are no longer of this world but of God’s kingdom.
The wise men are servants and worshippers of Christ, do his errands, and spread abroad the perfume of his name; while in Herod and the scribes we have his enemies. The true people of Christ’s kingdom look upward, and see what others do not see, their hearts belong to the invisible world, and they follow other laws than those followed by the children of unbelief. Jesus Christ is their king, and their effort is in all things to promote his honor. When they understand that it is his will, they leave home and country, and journey to strange peoples. For him they willingly sacrifice gold and treasure and all that they have. Him they worship, and to him they seek to gather souls from far and near. The countenance of God in Christ, the sun over our earth, has burst upon their sight. The things of eternity and heaven have become real and present to their hearts; and hence they no longer live unto themselves, but unto him, who died for us, and gave himself for us. In other words, they believe without seeing; they follow the star; that is, the light of God in his works; and they follow the word; that is, the holy scriptures. The wise men followed the star, and it led them to that which was written by the prophet. The prophecy pointed to Bethlehem; they accepted its guidance, and the star again attended them on their way to Christ.
The case of Herod and the scribes is entirely different. They have the word; but they see only its letter, and care nothing for Christ as the king of the souls. The world is their all. They live only for that which is of the earth. The eternal and divine things are nothing to them. Therefore they will not give themselves the trouble of going to Bethlehem. Herod reasons in this wise: “Should it prove that there is some truth in what these men say, I will in good time adopt the measures necessary for my own safety.” For this reason he asks the wise men to return to him.
This is the exact position taken by the children of the world among us. They know the word, and most of them do not deny its truth; but Christ, the heavenly and living substance of the word, has no real existence in their hearts. Therefore they do not worship him in truth, do not give themselves to him, do not sacrifice their treasures in his honor. Some of them may support the work of mission societies and the charities of the church, but their heart is not in it; and when it comes to a real test, they prefer to deny their Savior.
However, our gospel lesson also teaches that all must serve the Lord’s cause whether or no, and that he saves his own from the snares of the wicked. The stars of heaven and the highways of earth, astronomy and natural science, the railroads and waterways, the gold and frankincense, Herod and the scribes; all things and all men are made use of by the Lord for the extension of his kingdom. Who was victorious, Herod or Christ? Who accomplished their purpose, the wise men from the east or the scribes of Jerusalem?
Thou humble child of Bethlehem, who afterward didst become the despised and crucified Nazarene, and now art the glorified king of heaven; thou sun and magnet of my soul, draw us to thee; make us feel assured of this that thy right hand shall obtain the victory; and show us as much of thy glory as we can bear to see, that we may walk with joy on the paths which thou hast appointed. Draw us, Lord, after thee, make us thy servants, extend thy kingdom, let the forces of the gentiles and the abundance of the sea make haste to come unto thee. Amen.
Devotional reading and prayer are from Book of Prayer and Meditations on the Scriptures, pages 68–69. Public domain.