Christmas has come and gone. Now we’re well into the Epiphany season. The Christmas decorations are disappearing, but the white remains and will stay for a little while. For Epiphany means “manifestation, revelation.” “God in man made manifest” is our theme. The Baby born of Mary is true Man, but He is also true God. This is what The Church teaches us in these Sundays. Rejoice!
On Christmas we saw The Baby born of Mary. But on Epiphany we see that He is born for us. The Savior is not just for Abraham’s genetic descendants, but for all who believe in Him, both Jew and Gentile. This Baby is true God. We see that in the gifts the wise men gave, since gold confesses His deity, incense confesses we are to pray to Him alone, and myrrh confesses that He died for us. Rejoice!
This continued last Sunday, as The Boy was back home in The Temple. By His knowledge and understanding and questions He revealed He was no mere boy, but The God Who once sat enthroned there on The Ark of The Covenant. One week after Epiphany The Church remembers His Baptism, when His Deity was proclaimed by The Father, saying “This is My Beloved Son, in Whom I am well-pleased.” He was baptized to fulfill all righteousness, that is, to show all the world He is The One chosen by God to declare us righteous through His Death. Rejoice!
This theme will continue in the coming weeks. We’ll see Him heal a leper close up and a boy far off next week. In two weeks we’ll see Him still a storm. These are both things no mere mortal can do! In three weeks we’ll see Him transfigured on the holy mountain, with Moses and Elijah alongside Him, then go back down. This will prepare us to see Him go up Calvary. Rejoice!
Today we see Him do His first miracle. This is so important The Church has long connected it with the coming of the wise men and His Baptism as the most important parts of His Epiphany. That’s why it’s included in our opening hymn today. Before this miracle He had not shown His Deity so loud and clear.
He had six stone water pots filled to overflowing with water, and the next thing everyone knew, it was the best wine anyone had ever tasted! Why would He turn water into wine? After all, it’s not good for us to have too much of it. The head steward at the wedding in this Gospel kinda says that! So why would Jesus turn water into wine? Because He is The Lord of Gladness. The Son of God, The Son of Mary, is not a Lord of sadness or misery. He is Lord of gladness, joy, beauty and love! Rejoice!
He is Lord of Gladness. But this world is full of sorrow and misery. It’s all around us. We see it so clearly on a dark, gloomy, winter day. We’ve had a few of those recently. The sun doesn’t shine like we want it too. We get sick and tired easily. We feel bad and sad and just not as good as we would like. Christmas lights still give a little joy, but they just don’t look quite right when it’s pouring and there’s no snow. Accidents happen easily and all sorts of things can go wrong or not the way we want them to. Loneliness and sorrow can be found so easily.
Why? Because we live in a fallen world. Sin affects everything! It doesn’t just affect what I do. It affects what everyone around me does. It affects animals and plant life – after all, animals eat animals – and all creation. St. Paul says in Romans that the whole world is groaning in bondage to sin, waiting for its redemption, when Christ returns to raise us and destroy sin’s curse and make all things new. Sin affects you, and it is you. We prefer to be served instead of to serve. We give not because we want to but because we have to. People may rule not because they want to serve the citizens but because they like power, and power corrupts, and that can go for people in any position in any place! Evil things attract our attention, and good things are just boring and passé. We find it so hard to be kind sometimes, we don’t like to respect those in authority – or anyone and everyone, we’re lazy, we don’t always focus like we should on our hope in Christ, we don’t pray or read God’s Word as much as we should, we don’t always like to be hospitable or charitable. We rather be proud than humble. And that’s not even everything St. Paul talks about in today’s Epistle! It’s not just the people around us. It’s us! And that makes for a whole lot of no true joy (or peace on earth) a whole lot of the time for anyone and everyone – including us!
Into our messes and inability to do anything good, into our dark and dreary world, into all this The Lord of Gladness breaks through. Isn’t that why Christmas comes in December, at the darkest time of year? It makes sense for Him to be born then. He comes to overcome darkness with light, sorrow with joy, death with life, evil with good. He comes to crush sin and all its power. He comes to crush the head of the serpent who turned the world into a horror show and to give you eternity. He comes. The Lord comes. And you are glad. Rejoice!
How does He do it? How does He crush the horror show the devil threw our world headlong into? By enduring something far worse than anything we endure: crucifixion. And it was far worse for Him than for anyone else, because He was suffering hell itself at the same time. He had no greater sorrow than to be actually forsaken by His Father, with Whom He is one God, as He hung there for our sins. Such horror! To lose His Father while He was suffering for everything we’ve done wrong and not done right!
Yet it is through His horrors that you receive joys. He did it because He didn’t want you to live in eternal horror. He did it because He wanted you to have eternal joy starting in this life. What sort of joy? Not the joy the world wants, which exults in sin and loves to get dirty in perversion, but true joys, eternal joys, joys free from sin, free from evil, grounded in being dear children of our dear heavenly Father, grounded in Jesus’ Death and Resurrection. Rejoice!
For joy broke out from the tomb. Death could not hold back The Lord of Gladness. He freed Himself. He got out alive. He got out and said to all, yes, to you: “Rejoice!” Rejoice, for your sins are forgiven. Rejoice, for you will live with Him forever in the eternal joys of paradise. Rejoice, because those joys will be far greater, and far longer lasting than any wedding feast you’ve ever experienced up to now. Rejoice, for God is Man, man to deliver! (TLH 347:6 follows):
Hence, all fear and sadness! For the Lord of gladness, Jesus, enters in. Those who love the Father, Though the storms may gather, Still have peace within. Yea, whate’er I here must bear, Thou art still my purest Pleasure, Jesus, priceless Treasure!