Preached January 9, 2011
St. Luke 2:41–52
+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
The season of Christmass has drawn to a close, and now the season of Epiphany is upon us, a time in which we see the character of our Lord Jesus Christ shine forth in the world. He comes as the Sun of Righteousness, the Light which shines in the darkness and can never be overcome by the world. This shining forth of the glory of the Lord is the theme throughout Epiphany, and we are fortunate this year in that the Epiphany season will be on the long side so we will see the theme fully developed.
There are a number of events associated with Epiphany. The first, of course, is the visit of the Magi to the infant Christ Child, the Wise Men from the East carrying their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. These gifts indicate the several roles of the Christ as King, as High Priest, and also as Victim. This is very heavy symbolism to place on a tiny Child, and it could easily be overlooked or misunderstood. We celebrated this on the Feast of the Epiphany last Thursday. As we move on through this season, we will see the other signs of the showing forth of the Lord as they unfold before us throughout the season.
The principal manifestation of the glory of the Saviour that we want to focus on this morning is the Divine Wisdom that is seen in our Gospel lesson this morning, Jesus’ visit to the Temple when He was only twelve. Luke 2:46 And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. It shows that, even as a boy, Jesus displayed the Divine Wisdom, being able to converse with the most learned doctors of the Law as an equal as is evident in the phrase, both hearing them, and asking them questions. He is showing His Wisdom among this council of the most learned men in Israel just who He is, even though they do not fully recognize Him. Even so, it is a beginning, Jesus Christ as the Son of God revealed to the learned men of Jerusalem.
Often in the Bible, and especially in the Letters of St. Paul, we are shown a contrast between the wisdom of God and the wisdom of the world or the present age. 1 Corinthians 2:4-9 And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought: But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. The phrase the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory refers, of course, to Jesus Christ, the hidden Wisdom of God from before time for the purpose of the salvation of mankind. But note that Jesus is hidden Wisdom, not evident to the world and most often in apparent contradiction to the world.
In the Incarnation of Christ, leading to his eventual suffering and sacrificial death on the Cross, we have a fact that stands in stark contradiction to all the wisdom of the world. We are told over and over, “it does not make sense. What sort of a god would do such a thing?” The one True God, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ stands in sharp contrast to all of our worldly reasoning. As St. Paul says in our Epistle lesson, Romans 12:2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. We must have our minds transformed so that we think as God wills, not according to the way of the world, not according to the “natural way.” And be assured that it requires a transformation; this is not the natural state of man, but only the state of man redeemed and changed by Jesus Christ.
The pressure to conform is indeed heavy. In some respects it has reached massive proportions with this monstrosity we call “Political Correctness,” which is nothing less than a form of Marxist thought control being imposed upon us under the threat of social stigma. Think of the words, perfectly good, correct, legitimate English words, that you are no longer allowed to use because someone has declared them “off–limits”. St. Paul tells us, Be not conformed to this world, and we may take that as an across the board instruction, that we are to be freed from the foolish constraints of this world. At the same time, we are not to be free in the sense of license, but rather we are to be searching carefully for that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
In Old Testament times, God communicated with men through the prophets, but it was always a very limited sort of communication. The prophets would receive their message from the Lord, and then repeat it to the people, but it was always a “second hand” message, it was never God Himself speaking to the people. It was not that the prophets were unfaithful, but simply that they were unable to carry the message as effectively as if God were to speak for Himself. So, much like the owner of the vineyard in the parable of the vineyard, God decided to send His Son, also true God, to speak for Him, to reveal His will to mankind, the Divine Wisdom that had been hidden since the beginning of the world. As St. Paul tells us, Ephesians 1:9-10 Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: God has made known to us the mystery of His will, His will which is His alone from the beginning, that we may accept, believe, and be saved and thus be gathered in Christ at the end of time.
Our Gospel lesson for this first Sunday after the Epiphany has focused on the Divine Wisdom, and looking ahead, the Gospel lessons deal with the Divine Power evident in the miracles of Christ. As the Collect for the Day puts it today, it is important that we must first perceive and know the things we ought to do, and secondly that we may have grace and power faithfully so to fulfill the same. The order is definitely important. Power without wisdom, action without direction, activity without a plan, is always a mistake at best and is usually worse than that. The great temptation of this age is to “do something,” “to have an impact,” “to make a difference,” whether it be as individuals, as a government or service organization, or as the Church, but when done without the Divine Wisdom, all such efforts are simply wasted motion and effort.
Before I close this morning, I would like to call your attention to one verse near the end of our Gospel lesson for the day: Luke 2:51 And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart. This is at the end of the episode in the Temple, after His parents have returned to get Him. Compare this with a verse from the Gospel lesson for the Circumcision, Luke 2:19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. These two events are twelve years apart, and yet here is Mary, observing extraordinary things about her Son, wondering what it all means, wondering how it will all end? Her pondering began with the visit of the Archangel and here, almost thirteen years later, it has only increased. Thus far, there had been nothing bad at all in her Son’s life, as far as we know, but it had definitely been mysterious — the virgin birth, the visit of the shepherds, the visit of the Magi, and now this episode in the Temple. Where was it all going?
In each Sunday of the Epiphany season, we will see the nature of God in Jesus Christ revealed more and more fully. It is a season of beauty and power as the Church shows us just who the Incarnate Christ is as revealed through the choice of appointed lessons. May we be fully prepared to absorb and appreciate the image of Christ that shines forth during Epiphany, the season particularly devoted to revealing the Incarnate Word.
+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.