Monday, January 7, 2013

On Bended Knee

2:1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:
6 “‘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.’”
7 Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. 8 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.” 9 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. (Matt 2:1-12)
When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mothe, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then opening their treasures, the offered him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
And so the Epiphany, the revelation, this boy is as we confess in the Nicene Creed, God of God, very God of Very God. He is also God of gods, King of kings, Lord over all. The gentiles come to worship, the magi, priests of ancient pagan societies, as if by compulsion travel to bend a knee and worship their God. Yes he is their God, He is this whether or not they choose to recognize it, finally in the end they all will bow on bended knee by compulsion if need be, for us a great day of triumph, and for them a day of humiliation.
Jesus is God of gods, Lord of lords, King of kings. He is our Lord, and our judge to him we will all bend a knee. And so we are bold to confess his name before this world, to declare his grace, to live in his peace, and revel in his joy. Our Lord, our God is the child, who as an infant commands the respect of all, and declares his grace to gentiles also. We have nothing to fear, nothing to fear but this little child to whom pagan priests offer Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh.
He looks so small, so tiny, born of a peasant woman, inhabiting a barn, or perhaps by this time a humble dwelling of Bethlehem. There is nothing here to inspire awe. Herod thinks he can do away with this child, but the gentile kings, send their emissaries to worship. They know even better than the Israelites themselves who is to whom they bow, and worship, who it is who commands their respect, and what his gospel means.
There is a boldness that comes with understanding the full ramifications of the gospel, one that is often lost on us Christians. Sometimes it is as if we believe it, and yet don’t quite get it. We believe it, and doubt it at the same time.
We live in a world some of whom think the gospel is a small thing that can be done away with as Herod thought of his little child. It sends chills to hear a president or his administration say with bravado “We can and will force Christians to act against their conscience.” I understand their being some complicated issues at work with the Hobby Lobby case, but I want to think he just misspoke. It sends chills. Some sectors of the world think that gospel can be bread out of existence, if the Muslims just keep having more babies, they will overtake the world, just as they took over the deserts of the Middle East and North Africa. And waning church attendance in north America, It can all cause a spirit of fear, even among us all who hold to the gospel.
But look here, look to this infant before whom the pagans bow. Look at him, he looks weak and yet governs the world. He looks weak, and God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong, just as he chose the foolish things in the world to shame the wise. (1 Cor. 1:27) Oh he looks weak, and his gospel doesn’t threaten. It reaches out to this world that constantly rants against it and says, I forgive you, I am the Christ. And with these words God creates his church, makes believers of your children, your friends and family, and coworkers. These seemingly weak words that carry no threat, and yet enrage a world against him and his church. But the world has no more chance of prevailing over his church, assembled even now as would be pagans bend their knee, and the gospel preached to gentiles, has no more chance of prevailing over this church as it did over her Lord, whom it finally killed, but who rose again from the dead, to declare victory over you and I, over nations, over the powers of evil in this world. He rose from the dead in victory, this seemingly weak little child, that he might declare to you the forgiveness of sins as he ascended into heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father, from whence he will come again to judge the living and the dead. Yes, and at that point in time the fullness of the prophecy will come true, and all kings of the world will pay him his due, every soul will face his fear, and every knee bow, and every tongue confess, Jesus Christ is Lord.
Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

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