James Montgomery’s popular Christmas hymn “Angels from the Realms of Glory” (Lutheran Service Book 367) calls not only such angels but also abiding shepherds, contemplating sages, bending saints, and all creation, including you and me, to come and worship Christ, the King, Whose birth we celebrated twelve days ago.
Fewer Americans now than before reportedly believe that sages, or wise men, guided by a star brought Jesus gifts, but their lack of belief does not change both what the Bible presents as historical fact (Matthew 2:1-12) and what the Church observes this Epiphany Day (7:00 p.m. tonight at Pilgrim).
Whether the “magi” were greater or fewer than three (and they most likely were not themselves kings), God used His Word and a miraculous light to lead them to Jesus. Their worship of Jesus with their gifts was true and sincere, while King Herod’s expressed desire to worship Jesus was false and insincere, as evident by his so-called slaughter of the innocents (Matthew 2:16-18).
Apart from the Holy Spirit’s using His Word and other miraculous means (such as water, bread, and wine) to create and sustain faith in us, any worship on our part also would be false and insincere. By nature we are the “doomed sinners” of Montgomery’s often-omitted original fourth stanza. But, when the Holy Spirit turns us away from our sin and towards Christ and the forgiveness of sins given freely for His sake, then we offer Him the greatest worship of the Gospel, seeking and receiving that forgiveness in the ways that He offers it to us.
Forgiven, we then try to live as God would have us live. Following the examples of the patriarchs and prophets and the method described in the psalms, we pray to God, meditate on His Word, and let the Word comfort us amidst the afflictions that He permits us to experience refining our faith and drawing us closer to Him. Then, we not only delight in His written Word, but we also rejoice in His Enfleshed Word (John 1:14), evermore praising Him with angels, archangels, and all the company of heaven.
The Rev. Dr. Jayson S. Galler is Pastor of Pilgrim Lutheran Church in Kilgore. You can reach him through the congregation’s website: www.pilgrimlc.org.