Epiphany: Celebrating the Power of the Trinity and the Manifestation of Christ

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

 ‘Epiphany: Celebrating the Power of the Trinity and

the Manifestation of Christ’

© January 7, 2018 by Steve Mickelson

Revised Sermon, Originally Shared at BLCF on December 29, 2013

BLCF Bulletin January 7, 2018

Opening Hymn #118: Shepherds Came, Their Praises Bringing; Choruses                                                        

Prayer and Tithing: Hymn #572:  Praise God from Whom All Blessings; Prayer Requests                                                                                 

Responsive Reading #667 (Humility and Exaltation – Philippians 2; Matthew 23); Prayer                                                                               

Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘Epiphany: A True Manifestation of Jesus’

Let us pray…

Our lesson today will focus on Epiphany, not to be confused with the secular use of epiphany, such as the ‘Eureka!’ moment experienced by the ancient Greek scholar Archimedes, when he stepped into a bath and noticed that the water level rose and he suddenly understood that the volume of water displaced must be equal to the volume of the part of his body he had submerged, known today as the Archimedes’ principle.

The Epiphany which is the object of  today’s lesson is spelt with a capitol “E”, a Christians use to describe when the supernatural powers of Jesus, the Son of God, became manifested or expressed to all. We have a little more background from the Web site sharefaith.com:

Epiphany Observances

Observed on January 6th, the Epiphany celebration remembers the three miracles that manifest the divinity of Christ. The name “Epiphany” comes from the Greek word Epiphania, and means “to show, make known, or reveal.” The celebration originated in the Eastern Church in AD 361, beginning as a commemoration of the birth of Christ. Later, additional meanings were added – the visit of the three Magi, Christ’s baptism in the Jordan River, and his first miracle at the wedding in Cana. These three events are central to the definition of Epiphany, and its meaning is drawn from these occurrences.

For many Christians, the definition of Epiphany is a reminder of God the Father’s unlimited love and mercy, which He has extended to all of mankind through the revelation of His Son, and of the hope of salvation that is now manifest for all who come to him in faith.                                                              http://www.sharefaith.com/guide/Christian-Holidays/definition-of-epiphany.html

Last week we watched the film, the nativity story, which included a depiction of the visit of the Three Magi or  the Three Wise Men.  Epiphany is associated in the Christian Church and includes one or all three of the accounts recorded in the Bible:

  1. The Magi’s visit to the newborn Jesus at Bethlehem. (Matthew 2:1-12)
  2. The Miracle performed by Jesus to convert water into wine at a wedding in Cana. (John 2:1-12)
  3. The Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River by John. (Matthew 3:13-17)

The first of today’s Scripture verses gives the only account of the visit of the Magi or Wise Men who came from the east, beyond the borders of the Roman Empire, as unlike Joseph and Mary, they came to Bethlehem to worship and bear gifts to the newborn king as foretold by prophecy and guided by a star, and not in response the Census mandated by the Edict of Caesar.

The fact that the Magi were unaware that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, indicates that the three were Gentiles, being ignorant of the prophecy known to the scribes and chief priests, only that a star will mark the location of the birth of Christ Child as we see in Matthew 2:1-12 (ESV):

The Visit of the Wise Men

2 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men[a] from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose[b] and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:

“‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them 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.” 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. 12 And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.                                       

 Footnotes: a. Matthew 2:1 Greek magi; also verses 7, 16 b. Matthew 2:2 Or in the east; also verse 9

The birth of Jesus, the Messiah, the son of God, in the town of Bethlehem is an event that marks the fulfillment of God’s promise, an event foretold by the prophets, through visits by angelic messengers, and marked by a heavenly star. Our Scripture passage from Matthew 2:1-12 describes a prophecy that describes a visit by Wise Men or Kings, assumed to be three in number, based upon the three gifts of treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. Their visit was based upon a prophecy they which the priests and scribes described to King Herod as follows:

“In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:

“‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

This prophecy is found in Isaiah 60:1-3 (ESV):

The Future Glory of Israel

60 Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
For behold, darkness shall cover the earth,
and thick darkness the peoples;
but the Lord will arise upon you,
and his glory will be seen upon you.
And nations shall come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your rising.

The next manifestation of the Lord, takes place at a wedding at Cana in Galilee, considered to be either the first or second miracle performed by Jesus. If you consider the birth of the son of God to the Mary, a virgin, a miracle, then this wedding would be the second performed by the Lord which we find in John 2:1-12 (ESV):

The Wedding at Cana

2 On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.[a] Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” 11 This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.

12 After this he went down to Capernaum, with his mother and his brothers[b] and his disciples, and they stayed there for a few days.

Footnotes: a. John 2:6 Greek two or three measures (metrētas); a metrētēs was about 10 gallons or 35 liters b. John 2:12 Or brothers and sisters. The plural Greek word adelphoi (translated “brothers”) refers to siblings in a family. In New Testament usage, depending on the context, adelphoi may refer either to brothers or to brothers and sisters

The changing of water to wine by our Lord is considered by many Biblical scholars to be symbolic how faith in Jesus Christ transforms the believer into a new creature.

Our third Scripture passage describes how the Spirit of God came upon our Lord, after he was baptized in the River, Jordan, which is found in Matthew 3:13-17 (ESV):

The Baptism of Jesus

13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. 14 John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. 16 And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him,[a] and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son,[b] with whom I am well pleased.”

Footnotes: a. Matthew 3:16 Some manuscripts omit to him b. Matthew 3:17 Or my Son, my (or the) Beloved

From the three miracles of Epiphany, we see that God, as the Godhead/Holy Trinity, demonstrates His power and presence in many ways.

Our Epiphany study marks three events and aspects of the walk on earth by Jesus:

  1. His birth as prophesied by God and recorded in Scripture, which is supported by the visitation by the Magi.
  2. The power of the Lord was made manifest when Jesus transformed water to wine.
  3. The alighting of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus after His baptism, supported by words spoken to John by God.

All three Epiphany Scripture verses demonstrate how our Lord manifests or expresses his Devine power and presence: by his birth, his miracles and by way of the Holy Spirit. All three accounts take place between the birth and crucifixion of Jesus, while he walked on the earth as a man who the angels called the son of God, but who chose to refer to himself, more modestly, as the son of man.

The birth of Christ in such humble circumstances, as in a stable, with a manger as a crib, first announced by angels to shepherds, reveals that Jesus came as child to serve all men and women, not to rule from a palace, as he Magi had mistakenly expected. This child, Jesus, grew to become the Savior and Lord, not by power and conquest of battle and destruction, but by an act of love and surrender on the cross at Calvary.

Before he died, Jesus lived and experienced the world as a man, died a human death, but was resurrected from the tomb, and then ascended into heaven in order to bring Devine forgiveness and sanctification by taking upon himself our judgment for our sins. And Jesus continued to assure that we would have Emmanuel or the presence of God with us by way of the Holy Spirit.

I would like to point out that the Three Miracles of Epiphany focus on actions involving part of the Godhead or Holy Trinity:

  1. The Wise Men arrive in response to God, the Father’s prophecy fulfilled.
  2. The Wedding of Cana is an account where Jesus the Son, at the bequest of his mother, Mary, changes water into wine.
  3. The Baptism of Jesus, the Holy Spirit appears and alights upon Jesus.

Each of these miracles, the people witness an aspect of God’s will and power, be it the fulfilment of a prophecy of the arrival of the Messiah, the Christ, Jesus; Jesus changing water into the best wine for a wedding celebration; and the appearance of the Holy Spirit descending to Jesus, whose identity is confirmed by the words of the Father, Speaking from heaven.

Let us pray…

Communion Observance: #663 (1 Corinthians 11)

Closing Hymn #158: I Serve a Risen Savior

Benediction – (2 Corinthians 13:14):

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

 

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The Manifestation of the Light and Glory of the Lord

BLCF: magi_natalBLCF: canaBLCF: Jesus-baptism

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

The Manifestation of the Light and Glory of the Lord

© January 8, 2017 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF: Bulletin-January-8-2017

BLCF: epiphany3

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer

Opening Hymn #358: We Praise Thee, O God                                             

Tithing and Prayer; Hymn #572: Praise God; Prayers                                              

Scriptures: Isaiah 60:1-3, John 2:1-12, John 3:31-36, Ephesians 3:1-12

Responsive Reading #667: (Humility and Exaltation – Philippians 2; Matthew 23)

Let us pray…

Welcome to our Praise and Worship Service at BLCF Church, for Sunday January 8, 2017.

Our lesson today is on the topic of the significance to Christians: Epiphany. But what is Epiphany. For the answer, let us look at our Wikibits for a definition of Epiphany. Oxford Online Dictionary gives the following definition:

epiphany – NOUN

BLCF: Epiphany

  • 1 The manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles as represented by the Magi (Matthew 2:1–12).
    1. 1The festival commemorating the Epiphany on 6 January.
    2. 2A manifestation of a divine or supernatural being.
  • 2A moment of sudden and great revelation or realization.

Origin – Middle English: from Greek epiphaine in reveal. The sense relating to the Christian festival is via Old French epiphanie and ecclesiastical Latin epiphania.

https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/epiphany

And for those who seek a little more detail on the subject, the Encyclopædia Britannica online briefly gives a historical background as follows:

 Epiphany – RELIGIOUS FESTIVAL

BLCF: Epiphany

WRITTEN BY: The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica

LAST UPDATED:  12-9-2016 See Article History

 Epiphany, ( Greek epiphaneia, “manifestation” ) also called Feast of the Epiphany,Theophany, or Three Kings’ Day, Christian holiday commemorating the first manifestation of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, represented by the Magi, and the manifestation of his divinity, as it occurred at his baptism in the Jordan River and at his first miracle at Cana in Galilee. Epiphany is one of the three principal and oldest festival days of the Christian church (the other two are Easter and Christmas). Roman CatholicsLutheransAnglicans, and other Western churches observe the feast on January 6, while some Eastern Orthodox churches celebrate Epiphany on January 19, since their Christmas Eve falls on January 6.

The festival originated in the Eastern church, where it at first included a commemoration of Christ’s birth. In Rome, by 354 Christ’s birth was being celebrated on December 25, and later in the 4th century the church in Rome began celebrating Epiphany on January 6. In the Western church the festival primarily commemorates the visit by the Magi to the infant Jesus, which is seen as evidence that Christ, the Jewish Messiah, came also for the salvation of Gentiles. In the East it primarily commemorates the baptism of Jesus and celebrates the revelation that Christ was both fully God and fully man.

In the West the evening preceding Epiphany is called Twelfth Night. The time between December 25 and January 6 is known as the Twelve Days of Christmas.

https://www.britannica.com/topic/Epiphany

On January 5th  or 6th, depending on how you mark the days as beginning on the evening or morning, marks the 12th Day of Christmas, which is known in the church as Epiphany. The Epiphany celebration marks one or all three events in the earthy walk of our Lord, Jesus Christ: the arrival of the Wise Men or Magi to visit the newborn Jesus at Bethlehem; the Miracle performed by Jesus to convert water into wine at a wedding in Cana; and/or the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River by John.
BLCF: magi_natalBLCF: Jesus-baptism

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two Sundays’ ago, on Christmas Day, our lesson included a reading from Matthew 3:16-17 (ESV): Jesus is Baptized and last Sunday, our lesson included a reading from Matthew 2:1-15 (ESV): The Visit of the Wise Men.

The birth of Jesus, the Messiah, the son of God, in the town of Bethlehem is an event that marks the fulfillment of God’s promise, an event foretold by the prophets, through visits by angelic messengers, and marked by a heavenly star, Isaiah 60:1-3 (ESV):                                                                                            

The Future Glory of Israel

lBLCF: Light-of-Christmas

60 Arise, shine, for your light has come,     

and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.

For behold, darkness shall cover the earth,    

 and thick darkness the peoples;

but the Lord will arise upon you,     

and his glory will be seen upon you.

And nations shall come to your light,     

and kings to the brightness of your rising.

 The next manifestation of the Lord takes place at a wedding considered to be either the first or second miracle performed by Jesus. If you consider the birth of the son of God to the Mary, a virgin, a miracle, then this wedding would be the second performed by the Lord which we find in John 2:1-12 (ESV):

The Wedding at Cana

BLCF: cana

2 On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.[a] Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” 11 This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.

12 After this he went down to Capernaum, with his mother and his brothers, sisters,[b]and his disciples, and they stayed there for a few days.

Footnotes: a. John 2:6 Greek two or three measures (metrētas); a metrētēs was about 10 gallons or 35 liters b. John 2:12 Or brothers and sisters. The plural Greek word adelphoi (translated “brothers”) refers to siblings in a family. In New Testament usage, depending on the context, adelphoi may refer either to brothers or to brothers and sisters

The miracles and manifestation of our Lord give us a supernatural proof and affirmation of Lord’s power and presence. These miracles give testament to the true identity of Jesus, as the Son of God, and yet the miracle at the wedding at Cana, Jesus responds to a request from his mother in a miraculous way.

Mary’s earthly request is answered in a non-earthly way, which is what one might expect from the Word of God made flesh, which is explained in the Scripture, John 3:31-36 (ESV):

BLCF: John3-36

31 He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all. 32 He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony. 33 Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true. 34 For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. 35 The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.

While many see the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross and focus on the death of Jesus, the Lord wants us to remember the reason for the sacrifice which transformed all who believe into sanctified recipients of God’s most precious gift, which should be the focus of our witness and testimony, the transformation Christ which the Apostle Paul describes in Ephesians 3:1-12 (ESV):

 The Mystery of the Gospel Revealed

BLCF: Ephesians-3_1-12

 For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles— assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. This mystery is[a] that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in[b] God, who created all things, 10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.

Footnotes: a. Ephesians 3:6 The words This mystery is are inferred from verse 4 b. Ephesians 3:9 Or by

So let us embark on this new year, with a conviction and determination to share not only the miracles that the Lord performed as a proof of his supernatural identity as the Son of God, but our transformation from the punishment of death for sin and gift of eternal life, granted through Jesus, who granted us proof of God’s New Covenant given as a free gift to all who believe in Christ’s name.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #560: Another Year Is Dawning

Benediction (Romans 15:5-7): May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

BLCF: Christian-Unity

 

A New Year, A New Age, A New Life – in Christ

BLCF: animated_magi-starstargraphic

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

A New Year, A New Age, A New Life – in Christ’

© January 3, 2016 by Steve Mickelson

 BLCF Bulletin January 3, 2016

BLCF: animated-wisemen-star

Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #616: (Christian Baptism – Matthew 3 and 28, Acts 2, Romans 6); Prayer                                                                                   

Hymn #251: My Song Shall Be of Jesus; Choruses

Tithing and Prayer; Hymn #572: Praise God; Prayers                                                

Scriptures: Matthew 2:1-18, John 1:29, John 3:1-8

Let us pray…

Welcome to BLCF Church’s Praise and Worship Service, on this, the first Sunday of 2016, which is a Communion Sunday.

Our lesson for today, A New Year, A New Age, A New Life – in Christ,’ we give us an opportunity to reflect upon the events of 2015, while anticipating the hopes and expectations of the New Year, 2016.

Christians today, as in the years past, find the Christmas Season fraught with assaults against God, our faith and our Savior. It is around Christmas and Easter, the naysayers come forth to either deny the existence of Jesus and the truth of the Lord’s Gospel, or to promote a theory that Christ did not exist, or was not Savior.

It seems that no other faith is the subject of so much derision and attacked to the extent that is our faith in Christ. But the gospels are full of warnings that believers in the resurrected Christ may anticipate to see a parade of false prophets and perversions of the truth. We see an example of the agenda of proponents of this anti-Christian theology in the way we mark our calendars, where B.C. and A.D. are being replaced by B.C.E. and C.E., respectively. We find a Wikibits explanation for the meaning and motives for such a change as follows:

B.C. /A.D. versus B.C.E. /C.E.

BLCF: BC_Nativity_AD

Our calendar is based on the birth of Christ; all years before Christ’s birth have traditionally been designated B.C. (before Christ) and those after his birth as A.D., an abbreviation for the Latin term Anno Domini which means “in the year of the Lord.”

Some historians have adopted an alternative dating system, referring to B.C. as B.C.E. (Before the Common Era), and to A.D. as C.E. (Common Era). The change was made to mask the Christian basis for the dating system and presumably make it more palatable to non-Christians.

The new designation is unsatisfactory on several levels. In the first place, no “common era” exists. It can’t be found in history books or the dictionary. It was just made up. If there is a common era, it didn’t begin in the year one; it probably began around 1500 A.D. when ocean exploration connected the world in a global trading network.

On a cognitive level, B.C.E. and C.E. repeat the same letters in the same order making the distinction between them harder for the eye and mind to grasp than the traditional system that uses all different letters. To understand the meaning of dates, readers may have to stop and consciously translate the letters.

The politically sensitive thinkers who developed the new terminology were not so bold as to identify a new, logical, non-Christian basis for dating time such as the beginning of agriculture ten thousand years ago or the beginning of civilization five thousand years ago. Instead, they kept the Christian system but attempted to obscure its historical origin, a curiously anti-historical act.

http://www.studentsfriend.com/feed/topic11.html

BLCF: BC_AD

While some historians have an agenda focused on removing Christ from Christmas and modern calendars by using B.C.E. and C.E., no effort has been undertaken to make our nomenclature for “politically correct” by renaming the months named for Roman gods: January, February, March, April, May and June. Certainly Christians could be “offended” by the use of Roman gods to name the months is the same way non-Christians object to the acknowledge each year including and following Jesus’ birth as an Anno Domini or Year of the Lord and any year preceding his birth as an acknowledgement as well.

Many view the New Year as a time for resolutions for change, improvement, and reconciliation in our lives. So it is not surprising that while many such expectations answered by the birth of Jesus; others perceived his arrival as a threat to their own personal authority, as we see in the first of our Scripture verses, which tells of the arrival of the Magi or Wise Men in Matthew 2:1-18 (ESV):

The Visit of the Wise Men

BLCF: animated_wise_men

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men[a] from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose[b] and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:

“‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them 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.” 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. 12 And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.

The Flight to Egypt

BLCF: Jesus-in-Egypt

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.”

Herod Kills the Children

BLCF: Herod the usurper

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.”

Footnotes: a. Matthew 2:1 Greek magi; also verses 7, 16 b. Matthew 2:2 Or in the east; also verse 9

Since the Wise Men brought three different gifts to Christ child, offering him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh, we may infer that there were three Wise Men, with each bringing a gift for the newborn king.

Some try to disparage the Wise Men as astrologers and Wikibitsdictionary.com define as astrology as follows:

astrology – definition

BLCF: Ptolemy_Astrology_1564

A study of the positions and relationships of the sun, moon, stars, and planets in order to judge their influence on human actions. Astrology, unlike astronomy, is not a scientific study and has been much criticized by scientists.

If the Magi were just interested in studying the Star of Bethlehem, they would have neither acknowledge to star’s arrival as a fulfillment of the Jewish prophecy of the birth of the Christ child, nor would they arrive to worship him with valuable treasures. The fact that an angel had warned the Magi not to return to Herod indicates that there may have been some Divine influence which brought the Magi to Jesus and consequently gifts worthy of a king were brought to the Lord.

No doubt when Mary, Joseph and Jesus fled to Egypt, these valuable gifts were used by the three refugees while in exile until the time that they returned.

I find it ironic that many who profess to be Christians today have little or no sympathy for the plight of the refugees in the Middle East, fearing the refugees may harbor a threat to their way of life. This perceived threat parallels the motive which prompted Herod to kill all the male infants age two years and under in the vicinity of Bethlehem.

I feel that God, the Father, knew of the danger from Herod and He provided a way of escape by an angel’s warning to Joseph and the gifts of the Magi.

The date of Christ’s birth is so significant to history that events are observe to have occurred on a date defined as a year preceding or following the year that Jesus was born. While AD or Anno Domini translates as the “Year of the Lord”, Christians mark the date of their re-birth as a child of God some thirty three or so years later, following the Lord’s death, resurrection, ascension, and Day of Pentecost, which collectively mark the birth of the Church, a body of believers, who having demonstrated faith in Christ by confessing their sins, following the Way of the Lord, receiving the Spirit and teaching the Gospel.

That Gospel message being that: Jesus is the spotless Lamb of God, sent to wash away our sins! His birth was for his death; his death was for our re-birth, as was acknowledged by John the Baptist in John 1:29 (ESV):

Behold, the Lamb of God

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29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

Just as Jesus was born to mature to become the Savior from the judgment of the sins of humanity, believers must be willing to be reborn through faith, by God’s Holy Spirit, as indicated in the account of Nicodemus in John 3:1-8 (ESV):

You Must Be Born Again

Be still and know HE is God!

Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus[a] by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again[b] he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.[c] Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You[d] must be born again.’ The wind[e] blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

Footnotes: a. John 3:2 Greek him b. John 3:3 Or from above; the Greek is purposely ambiguous and can mean both again and from above; also verse 7 c. John 3:6 The same Greek word means both wind and spirit d. John 3:7 The Greek for you is plural here e. John 3:8 The same Greek word means both wind and spirit

Just as our Lord grew from an infant to a child, and then a man, those who are re-born or born again in Christ are expected to grow and mature in the Spirit. And with the maturity of Spiritual growth, Christians are expected to take upon themselves the responsibility of preaching the Word or the truth of Christ’s Gospel to others, 2 Timothy 4:1-8 (ESV):

Preach the Word

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I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound[a] teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.

Footnotes: a. 2 Timothy 4:3 Or healthy

For our closing prayer for this New Year 2016, I would like to read to you ‘A Prayer for Peace’ by St. Francis of Assisi, which gives a good outline of how we may best achieve the task of preaching the Gospel in thought, word and deed. What better way to implement a Christians’ desire for resolution for change, improvement, and reconciliation in the New Year of their rebirth and the future.

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Let us pray…

Hymn #220: Break Thou the Bread of Life                                                        

Communion Scripture Versus: 1 Corinthians 10:16-18, 11:23-26

1 Corinthians 10:16-18 (ESV)

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16 The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. 18 Consider the people of Israel:[a] are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar?

Footnotes: a. 1 Corinthians 10:18 Greek Consider Israel according to the flesh

1 Corinthians 11:23-26 (ESV)

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23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for[a] you. Do this in remembrance of me.”[b] 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

Footnotes: a. 1 Corinthians 11:24 Some manuscripts broken for b.1 Corinthians 11:24 Or as my memorial; also verse 25

Benediction – (Psalm 90:14): Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.

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