[Matthew 2:1-12] “……. And behold, the star that [the wise men] had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly great joy. And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him……………….”
God Revealed in a Mother’s Lap
God said to Moses, “You shall not see my face; for man shall not see Me and live.” Monoah said to his wife, “We shall surely die, for we have seen God” [Judges 13:22]. When God, in some manner, would make Himself known to His people, they would so often respond with terror or fear of death. When, from the midst of fire and cloud and “thick darkness”, God spoke in the presence of the assembly Israel (in the days of Moses), the people responded, “Now therefore why should we die? For this great fire will consume us. If we hear the voice of the Lord our God any more, we shall die.” [Deuteronomy 5:25].
Adam, our first ancestor, after having fallen into sin, when he heard the voice of God, hid from the presence of the Lord in fear [Genesis 3:8]. God’s people throughout the centuries following encountered the terrifying presence of God, the God who was delivering them. Even as He led them through the wilderness and through the Red Sea in safety, He led them as a pillar of fire and a pillar of cloud.
And what about the Gentiles? (“Gentile” in the Bible simply means “nation”. The “Gentiles” in the Bible are those who come from the various nations of the world, as opposed to God’s nation(s) of Israel/Judah in the Old Testament.) What about the Gentiles who did not have God’s written Word, who did not know God, who did not know God’s promises?
They too encountered God, but only through what could be known by nature. The Gentiles knew God according to “the wrath of God [which] is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men …. … For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world” [Romans 1:18-20].
All mankind has known God, their Creature, according to His eternal power, divine nature, and wrath against our ungodliness (our sins, failures, uncleanness, etc). NO ONE HAD BEEN ABLE TO SEE GOD AND LIVE.
But God, “WHO IS NOT WILLING THAT ANY SHOULD PERISH” [2 Peter 3:9], had now, indeed, made Himself known. God, unwilling that any sinner should perish, has revealed Himself in a way that gives life. Today, on Epiphany, the Gentiles saw God for the first time – revealed, this time, not as wrath or fire, but, in accord with God’s will to save sinners, as a Gentle Newborn Child – A young child, a one-year-old or less, sitting on His mother’s lap. That is God revealed to the Nations for the first time – a boy child sitting on His mother’s lap.
Today we celebrate the Epiphany of our Lord – the Epiphany of our Lord to the Gentiles, the Nations. “Epiphany” means a “revealing”, a “showing”, being made “manifest”. Christ, who has come to be Savior of all nations, is God-made-flesh, God-made-man, He is “God-in-Man-Made-Manifest” – He is God revealed to Man by becoming one of the Men.
God-Mad-Man was first seen by Jewish shepherds outside Bethlehem [Luke 2:8-17] who encountered Him wrapped in swaddling clothes. Now, on Epiphany, He is seen by the Gentiles – by the Wise Men, magi, from the East – sitting in Mary’s lap. Because God has so revealed Himself, the eyes of guilty sinners of all the world can see their Unsafe, All-Holy God AND yet LIVE.
Before, Man could only know God as a fierce whirlwind, earthquake, or fire – very few knew Him according to His truest nature as “a low whisper” [1 Kings 19:9-18]. But at the right time God made Himself known.
You, brother or sister in Christ – you, though you have stumbled – you, though you have been at your worst lately – at your worst toward your family; toward you job – at your worst in your ungratefulness, or in your self-concern – at your worst in your neglect – at your worst in love for your neighbor, and love for God, which has run cold at your worst in your anger and emotional reactions – at your worst in your unclean, indecent thoughts and actions – though you have been at your worst lately, you can approach Your God, Your Creator, and NOT DIE, but LIVE. You can approach God, not unto your terror, but unto your comfort and to be forgiven and healed and to live.
All people love babies and can be set at ease at the presence of a happy child in His mother’s lap. God who is love and who loves sinners dearly, became such a child to reveal, to make manifest, to sinners His will to be Gentle toward the guilty and His will to give them rest from their conscience and their fear.
Christ in Mary’s lap is truly an Epiphany, a Revealing, of God – of God’s Will and loving nature. Now sinners, even those who did not know God, like those Gentile Wise-Men from the nations of the world, can love and worship God because He reveals His gentle nature toward them in Christ.
I believe that you and I have a much easier time believing and understanding and comprehending that Jesus truly is God than we do comprehending that God has truly become Man. We can exalt Jesus to be King of Kings in our mind (rightly so) and picture Him as the Almighty (as He is), but it is harder to understand how completely human our God, the Son of God, became (and is) when he assumed the human nature.
God became like us in every way – only without sin. Like many newborns do, God-in-flesh had to flee from death shortly after being brought into this life. And, like each of your children, God-in-flesh, God-in-Man-Made-Manifest, had to grow and learn. And, like many sons, God-in-flesh was followed His whole life, even into His years of manhood, by a Mother who was worried about Him.
Just as His Mother held Him in front of the Wise-Men, she also followed Him to the Cross - no doubt worried about Him and pierced in soul [Luke 2:35] with all motherly pain as He died.
From the womb, to the Cross where He died for the sins of all men, to His rest in the tomb, He was loved and worried about and was thoroughly Human in His experience.
And on the Cross, this Jesus was again revealed to and recognized by the Gentiles as the true God – the Roman Centurion and his soldiers with Him, upon Jesus’ death, said with awe, “Truly this man was the Son of God,” [Matthew 27:54; Mark 15:39]
Risen from the dead, seated at the right hand of God Father, He is still thoroughly Human. This same God-in-Man-Made-Manifest, born and resting in His Mother’s lap, is still Man today – He is still Man in eternity and even still carries in the flesh of His very Human hands and feet and side the wounds by which He paid for your sins. Those wounds in that Son are forever in heaven before God’s eyes, always showing the Father that your sins are paid for.
God, in God the Son, who cannot be seen has made Himself seen and known and knowable for all nations by becoming knowable-Man. Let’s daily cling to God’s Gentle Nature in Him now as we are able, now, to know Him, even in His Word and Sacrament. Amen.