January 2024

Trust in Him. Believe His Promises.

“Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?  We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”

(Matthew 2:2)

The visit of the Magi shortly after the birth of Jesus is an account that is well-known to us.  Every Christmas we decorate our homes and our churches with nativity scenes that normally include the Magi from the east.  We know this account well, but we do not know a great deal about who the Magi were.  The Holy Scriptures do not reveal to us where the Magi came from, what their names were, or even how many Magi arrived to worship the child Jesus.  Despite the many things we do not know about the Magi from the East, what we do know is this:  they recognized the glory of God’s Son.

Chapel of the Magi, Florence, Italy

Epiphany reveals to us the glory of God’s Son.  At Christmas we recognize and celebrate the fact that God’s Son became a true human being, just like you and me.  The season of Epiphany focuses on the fact that the child born in Bethlehem was more than just a human being.  He was and is the eternal Son of God.  This season begins each year on January 6, and the Gospel reading for this day is Matthew 2:1-12–the visit of the Magi.

The texts read in church during Epiphany show us the deity of Jesus.  They focus on his powerful teaching, his miracles, his ability to know the hearts of others, and the occasions when the Father spoke from heaven to declare that Jesus is his Son, whom he loves.  As Christians, we know and cherish this portion of Jesus life.  They remind us of both the great power our Lord exercises in this world and the fact that he uses his divine power for the good of his people.

Yet, during Epiphany, we should also be cautious that we do not apply our own standards of glory to Christ and, by doing so, miss the true glory that if found in our Savior.  This is not to say that certain aspects of Jesus’ glory were not glorious according to human standards.  The raising of Lazarus from the dead; feeding the five thousand; walking on water; healing a paralyzed man so that he could walk and carry his mat home; all of these miracles show the power of Jesus and are signs that point to him as the promised Messiah.  They are also events in the life of Christ that are glorious in the eyes of human beings.

This brings us back to the question at the start of this devotion:  What did the Magi think when they finally found the newborn king whom they were seeking?  When they first came to Judea, they went to the logical place to find a newborn king.  They went to the capital of the province and talked with the current king.  Yet, the glory of the newborn king was not found in the capital city of Jerusalem.  It was not found in a king’s palace.  It was to be found in a small child who was just a few kilometers south of Jerusalem in the town of Bethlehem.  The actions of the Magi show us they recognized the true glory of Christ.  It is not a glory that is seen with the eyes of the body, but only with the eyes of faith.  Matthew records for us, “On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him.”  (Matthew 2:11)

Jesus was just a child at this point.  By earthly standards, King Herod was far more glorious.  Over the course of his political career he had done business with Caesar Augustus, Marc Antony, and Cleopatra.  He had expanded the Temple Mount and been rebuilding the Jerusalem Temple into a large and glorious structure (cf. Matthew 24:1).  Along the coast, at Caearea Maritima, he used the new Roman construction medium of underwater concrete to build a harbor.  Across his kingdom were numerous palaces and fortresses, including the Herodium located just down the road from Bethlehem, where Herod would be buried.  And yet, just down the road from where Herod would be buried, was born someone who is worshiped every day.  Herod’s kingdom is gone.  His grand fortresses and palaces have long crumbled.  But the kingdom of that little boy the Magi found is still as strong and majestic as it has always been.

Which kingdom was more glorious–the kingdom of Herod or the kingdom of Jesus?  Clearly, we would answer the latter, but that glory is only seen by the eyes of faith.  We saw this faith in the Wise Men.  When the Magi bowed down and worshiped Jesus, how many people were there worshiping him?  Three?  Five? A few more?  It didn’t matter to the Wise Men that the worship took place in a house rather than the Temple in Jerusalem.  The number of people at the worship event was unimportant.  All that mattered to the Wise Men was that they had the chance to spend time with the king who had come to be their Savior.

The Jesus we worship is the same Jesus whom the Magi sought and worshiped.  We must be on our guard that we do not let the glory seen with the eyes overshadow the glory that is seen through faith.  For those of you living overseas, whether you are in the military members, contractors working with the military, or expats living in Europe, it can become easy to miss the worship opportunities you had back home.  Living overseas probably means worship looks very different than it did back in the U.S.  There are probably far fewer people at the worship services.  The worship location may not be large and beautiful.  There may be no big events following the worship service and after hearing the Gospel and receiving Holy Communion, you and your fellow worshipers may leave and go your separate ways, as the journey home may take some time.  Despite these differences from our worship back in the U.S. there is just as much glory in a small, discreet worship service in a home or base chapel as there is in a large sanctuary filled with worshipers.  What makes the difference and what brings the glory is the presence of Christ.

That quiet glory of time with the King that was so precious to the Magi is yours every time you gather with your fellow believers around Word and Sacrament.  Perhaps you gather with fellow believers to worship Jesus in a house, just as the Wise Men did.  Perhaps there are only a few people at the worship service, as was the case for the Wise Men.  Just like these ancient fellow believers, after worship you may leave for a long journey back home.  No matter the circumstances, the glory of God and his kingdom are present when his Gospel of salvation is present.  Jesus himself pointed to this when he was about to heal the body of the paralyzed man after telling him he was forgiven.  Before healing the man, Jesus said, “Which is easier:  to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’?”

As we go through Epiphany and recall the powerful miracles of Christ, we may often wish we could experience such miracles in our own life.  The truth is, we do.  The faith worked in our hearts by the Holy Spirit that connects us to Christ and his forgiven is the greatest miracle of all.  To heal a human body cost Christ nothing.  To save your soul cost him his life.  Epiphany reminds us of what is really important in our lives and in our worship:  the forgiveness of our sins.  No matter how many or how few people are surrounding us, when you are spending time with Christ in his Gospel, the glory is present.

Take some time to read Matthew 2:1-2 to recall the visit of the Magi and consider how blessed you are to know Christ as your Savior and to experience the glory that is your forgiveness through him.

In Christ,

Chaplain Robert Weiss

 

“On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and the bowed down and worshiped him” (Matthew 2:11)


Easter Retreat – March 28-31 in Heidelberg

We are quickly approaching our European Chaplaincy’s Easter Retreat, which will be held at the Jugendherberge Heidelberg International  from March 28 through Sunday, March 31.  Here is the general plan for the retreat:

Thursday, March 28

  • Dinner at the youth hostel
  • Maundy Thursday worship
  • Fellowship time at the youth hostel

Friday, March 29

  • Breakfast at the youth hostel
  • Bible study/kids activities
  • Lunch at the youth hostel
  • Free time to explore Heidelberg
  • Dinner at the youth hostel
  • Good Friday worship service
  • Fellowship time

Saturday, March 30

  • Breakfast at the youth hostel
  • Bible Study/kids activities
  • Lunch at the youth hostel
  • Free time to explore Heidelberg
  • Dinner together at a local restaurant
  • Fellowship time together after dinner

Sunday, March 31

  • Breakfast at the youth hostel
  • Easter Sunday worship service
  • Group Picture
  • Depart for home

The address for the Jugendherberge Heidelberg International is: Tiergartenstraße 5, 69120 Heidelberg.  The website for the Jungenherberge is: www.jugendherberge.de/en/youth-hostels/heidelberg/. I will be sending out a sign-up form for everyone interested to register.

We look forward to worshiping and spending time with many of you at the retreat!

In Christ,

Pastor Weiss


Fall Retreat 2024

We will hold our Fall Retreat on November 1-3 in Nürnberg.  Our place of lodging is the Jugendherberge Nürnberg, located in the old city city-center immediately adjacent to the Kaiserburg.  Further information on this will be distributed as the Fall Retreat approaches


Change of Worship Date at Wicker

Due to a scheduling conflict, we will worship at Wicker on Sunday, February 4, at 11:00 am instead of January 28.  This is a one-time schedule change and we will continue with our regular schedule of every second and fourth Sunday of the month on February 11.


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