Matins, Page 208, Lutheran Worship
Yea, though I walk through valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and staff they comfort me. – Psalm 23:4
Because of sin and the devil, we can never totally escape our fears. But when we trust in Jesus, we can face our fears and work to overcome them. I still can see the look of fear of the survivors of Haiti earthquake. Will the New Madrid fault shake soon? Jesus shows us that though our fears are real to us, we really don’t need to be afraid of anything.
Even though we know we have nothing to fear with Jesus near, our minds still tell us we are afraid of certain things. We might fear snakes or public speaking or rejection.
God gives us words of wisdom to help us combat some common fears:
Fear of the dark – This fear might seem childish. When we were young, we needed our night-light and security blanket, and that door better be open a crack.
But we still may be afraid of the dark as adults – or at least of things that happen in the dark. Robberies, strange noises, threatening shadows happen when the lights go down. But the Bible says in Psalm 139, “Even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.” Jesus sees us in the dark of night. He is always there for us.
Fear of being alone – We can feel alone even when people surround us. We may be lonely. We may be in a place where we don’t know anyone. We may discover we are sick and wonder if anyone else is going through the same thing. It’s scary to feel so alone.
But we aren’t alone: “Because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you’ ” (Hebrews 13:5). God is always with us and will protect us from harm.
Prayer: O most loving Father, You want us to give thanks for all things, to fear nothing except losing You, and to lay our cares on You, knowing that You care for us. Strengthen us in our faith in You. Grant that the fears and anxieties of this mortal life may not separate us from your love shown to us in Jesus Christ, Your Son our Lord. Amen.
What God ordains is always good.
He is my Friend and Father;
He suffers naught to do me harm,
Though many storms may gather.
Now I may know both joy and woe,
Some day I shall see clearly
That He hath loved me dearly. (TLH 521, stanza 4)
Although I am less than the least of all God’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ. – Ephesians 3:8
Ever have a memory from your past that’s so painful you literally close your eyes and cringe whenever you think about it? For some, such memories are so powerful that they fill themselves with anything to deaden the hurt: booze, pills, pleasure, TV, mindless busyness. Do you have such a memory? Perhaps something from your past is haunting you right now.
If so, sit down for a moment next to the apostle Paul. It seems that Paul grappled with the same thing. In spite of all that the Lord did through Paul’s amazing ministry, Paul still considered himself “the least of all God’s people.” Let’s be clear: Paul did not say this for the sake of some oratorical etiquette; in other words, he did not say it just so he could appear gracious or humble before his readers. Elsewhere in his writings Paul said the same thing. And he also explained why. You see, through the years Paul had never shaken the searing memories of what he had done before becoming a Christian. For that reason the reality of his own sinfulness never left his side.
But there was the beauty that because Paul was now forgiven in Christ, even his painful memories were a blessing. Whenever they haunted him, they also served to highlight God’s grace in Paul’s life. It was God’s undeserved love for a sinner like Paul that continually filled him with gratitude and peace. And it was this gratitude and peace that helped inspire Paul to follow his Lord for the rest of his life.
Do you have a memory from your past that can sometimes paralyze you with pain and regret? Join the club. But consider what else that memory does. In Christ, that memory spotlights the Lord’s grace, his undeserved love, in your life. In him you are forgiven. In him you possess a peace that no bad memory can ever take away.
Remember that as you begin the new year. And thank your Lord that he can turn even your painful memory into a blessing.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, forgive me for the times I have allowed painful memories to prevent me from seeing you. Use my painful memories to remind me of your grace in my life. Amen.
Savior of All
Epiphany vividly reveals the reason the Son of God came among us as one of us. He has come as the fulfillment of God’s promises to send a Messiah who would save all people, without any kind of exception, from sin, its condemning and life-controlling power, and to restore all kinds of people everywhere to the presence and power of God.
This salvation, which Simeon called “a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for the glory of your [God’s] people Israel,” is also demonstrated by the visit of the Wise Men to the child Jesus. These Wise Men (or Magi) were not Jews. They were Gentiles whom God led to Jesus by a brilliant star in order to manifest that His saving plan is indeed for Gentiles as well as Jews.
In the epistle for the festival day itself, St. Paul discloses the revelation that Jesus has come not only for Jews, but also for Gentiles. He says that until it was revealed to Him by God, this truth was a mystery. But God has now made known “that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the Gospel.”
Through St. Paul, God “has brought to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things.” In words of St. Paul to Titus, it is certainly true that “the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men” (Titus 2:11).
And how has Jesus carried out His saving mission for Gentiles and Jews? St. Paul reveals the way of salvation in these words: “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3-4).
These comments remind us of other words of St. Paul about Jesus Christ. “[He] gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do good” (Titus 2:14).
Because the Son of God was born as a human being, He has been able to suffer and die for our sins in our place And because He is God, His suffering and death are sufficient to pay in full the debt we owe to God for our sinfulness and disobedience.
His resurrection from the dead, the greatest of all epiphanies, causes His victory to shine forth in radiant splendor. Salvation is for all of us through faith in Jesus Christ, God’s own Son, and this message is the greatest splendor of Epiphany.
Lives Enlightened by Epiphany
When the splendor of Epiphany has shown radiantly and brilliantly into our lives, we can never be the same. Why? Because in Holy Baptism our lives have been “epiphanized.” We are the people of light who are transformed and transfigured.
St. Paul is clear about this. We have been buried with Jesus “by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” He concludes that we must consider ourselves “dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”
Let us remember that Jesus has given Himself not only to redeem us from all wickedness, but also to purify for Himself a people eager to do good (Titus 2:14).
As we move through this Epiphany Season, we will become more and more enlightened about how to live “epiphanized” lives in our contemporary, sometimes dark, dreary, and dangerous world. In turn, we will be enabled by God Himself to live the “epiphanized” life. Here is a short list to consider:
1. Share the splendor of Epiphany as God did by the guiding star and worship Jesus with precious gifts;
2. Draw on your baptism for comfort, confidence, and courage;
3. Use your newness of life to care for others;
4. Let the words of your mouth and the meditation of your heart be acceptable to the Lord;
5. Live a life of love as described by St. Paul;
6. Excel in building up the Church;
7. Strive to live the “blessed” life outlined by Jesus;
8. Remember that Jesus is God’s Son and Chosen One; and
9. Listen to Him.
Bask in the splendors of Epiphany, every single brilliant facet of the season, and praise the Lord!