Worship Helps for Epiphany

Artwork: Adoration of the Magi
Artist: Andrea Mantegna

Next Sunday we are celebrating the second Sunday after Christmas. But I am sharing with you the lessons for the Epiphany Festival for January 6 at 6:30 pm at Epiphany so that you may learn more about this high festival of the Christian Church year, and also appreciate the name of your church.

Worship Theme: The season of Epiphany (the Greek word for “appearance”) recalls how Jesus proved himself to be the Son of God and the Savior of all people. The Festival of the Epiphany of Our Lord is celebrated on January 6, the twelfth day of Christmas, and is often called the Gentile Christmas. In the lessons and the Gospel, God makes it abundantly clear that his salvation is not only for his chosen Old Testament people but also for the Gentiles (non-Jews). Jesus is the Savior of all people!

Old Testament: Isaiah 60:1 "Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you. 2 See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the LORD rises upon you and his glory appears over you. 3 Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. 4 "Lift up your eyes and look about you: All assemble and come to you; your sons come from afar, and your daughters are carried on the arm. 5 Then you will look and be radiant, your heart will throb and swell with joy; the wealth on the seas will be brought to you, to you the riches of the nations will come. 6 Herds of camels will cover your land, young camels of Midian and Ephah. And all from Sheba will come, bearing gold and incense and proclaiming the praise of the LORD.

1. To whom is the Lord speaking in these verses?

2. From where will people come to fill up the New Testament Christian church?

Epistle: Ephesians 3:2 Surely you have heard about the administration of God's grace that was given to me for you, 3 that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. 4 In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God's holy apostles and prophets. 6 This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus. 7 I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God's grace given me through the working of his power. 8 Although I am less than the least of all God's people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. 10 His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, 11 according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. 12 In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.

3. Who wrote the letter to the Ephesians? (cf. 3:1)

4. What job had God given to this apostle? (vv 8-9)

Gospel: Matthew 2:1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him." 3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 When he had called together all the people's chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. 5 "In Bethlehem in Judea," they replied, "for this is what the prophet has written: 6 "'But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.'" 7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, "Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him." 9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

5. From where did the Magi come to worship the newborn Savior?

6. Were the Magi Jews or Gentiles?

7. What gifts did they bring Jesus? (Isaiah 60:6)


Answers:
1. The Lord is speaking to the New Testament Christian church, which has Jesus as its head.  Jesus once said that he is the light of the world (John 8:12).  He also said that Christians are the light of the world (Mt 5:14).  When the prophet announces that “nations will come to your light,” he is speaking of Christ and the Christian church in the New Testament era, when people throughout the world would come to faith in Jesus.

2. From all nations, both Jews and Gentiles. (vv 3-4)

3. St. Paul wrote Ephesians, probably during his first imprisonment in Rome in about 60 AD.  The congregation in Ephesus was made up of both Jews and Gentiles, two groups that often disliked one another.  Paul wanted these two groups to live peaceably with one another (Ephesians 2:14-18).

4. Paul’s specific mission was to proclaim the good news about Jesus to the Gentiles (non-Jews).  The fact that Jesus was the Savior of all people, not just the Jews, was the big “mystery” that God wanted Paul to proclaim.

5. From the east, perhaps from Persia or Arabia.

6. We really don’t know, since the Scriptures don’t make that clear.  It has always been assumed that they were Gentiles.

7. They brought him gold, incense and myrrh, all quite expensive items.  The prophet Isaiah had predicted such gifts in Isaiah 60:6.


Putting your faith into action
In the Eastern church the festival of the Epiphany of our Lord is the big celebration, not Christmas. Sadly, it tends to be the forgotten festival among us. Isaiah uses beautiful picture language to show us why this festival is so important. He foretold that the Savior would not just be for the people of Israel, but for the whole world. That includes you and me. That good news of a Savior guides and directs everything that we do.


A reading from the Book of Concord for Epiphany
From the beginning of the world these two proclamations have always been taught alongside each other in God’s Church, with a proper distinction.  The descendants of the patriarchs called to mind constantly how in the beginning a person had been created righteous and holy by God.  They know Adam transgressed God’s command, became a sinner, and corrupted and cast himself with all his descendants into death and eternal condemnation.  They encouraged and comforted themselves by the preaching about the woman’s seed, who would bruise the Serpent’s head (Genesis 3:15); Abraham’s seed, in whom “all the nations of the earth [will] be blessed” (Genesis 22:18); David’s Son, who should be “a light for the nations” (Isaiah 49:6), and who “was wounded for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities… and with His stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).

These two doctrines should be taught in God’s Church to the end of the world.  They must be taught with the proper distinction: (a) through the Law the hearts of impenitent people may be terrified, and (b) be brought to a knowledge of their sins and to repentance.  This must not be done in a way that they despair in this process.  “The law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith” (Gal. 3:24).  The Law leads us to Christ, who “is the end of the law” (Rom. 10:4). – Solid Declaration, Articles V, The Law and the Gospel (paragraphs 23-24)

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