The Glory Has Departed

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I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. 1 Timothy 2:1-4

Sunday, January 3, 2016

The Second Sunday after Christmas, 2016.
Matthew 2:13-23. The Star of Bethlehem and Herod

The Second Sunday after Christmas, 2016

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

Bethany Lutheran Church, 10 AM Central Time

The Hymn # 131           The Star Proclaims the King Is Here                 
The Confession of Sins
The Absolution
The Introit p. 16
The Gloria Patri
The Kyrie p. 17
The Gloria in Excelsis
The Salutation and Collect p. 19
The Epistle and Gradual       
The Gospel              
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed p. 22
The Sermon Hymn #127               As With Gladness Men of Old

 Prophetic Fulfillment

The Hymn #132                            O God of God, O Light of Light
The Preface p. 24
The Sanctus p. 26
The Lord's Prayer p. 27
The Words of Institution
The Agnus Dei p. 28
The Nunc Dimittis p. 29
The Benediction p. 31
The Hymn #136                              Angels From the Realms of Glory          

Ephesians 1:3-16
King James Version (KJV)
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:
According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:
Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,
To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.
In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;
Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence;
Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself:
10 That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:
11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:
12 That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.
13 In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,
14 Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.
15 Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints,
16 Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers;


Matthew 2:13-23 (King James Version)

13 And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.
14 When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt:
15 And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son.
16 Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying,
18 In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.
19 But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt,
20 Saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead which sought the young child's life.
21 And he arose, and took the young child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel.
22 But when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Judaea in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither: notwithstanding, being warned of God in a dream, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee:
23 And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.


O Lord God, heavenly Father, who didst suffer Thy dear Son, Jesus Christ, to become a stranger and a sojourner in Egypt for our sakes, and didst lead Him safely home to His fatherland: Mercifully grant that we poor sinners, who are strangers and sojourners in this perilous world, may soon be called home to our true fatherland, the kingdom of heaven, where we shall live in eternal joy and glory; through the merits of Thy Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one true God, world without end. Amen.

Prophetic Fulfillment - from Genesis to Matthew

Matthew 2:13 And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him. 14 When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt:

The appointed lessons seem to enjoy being out of order. The Day of Epiphany uses the first part of this chapter. So the aftermath is before. But that does not matter much, since both parts belong together.

Herod's fear of a baby is much clearer to us when we consider the Genesis prophecy. 

“The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the obedience of the peoples be.” Genesis 49:10.

Herod was not a Jew, so the Roman appointment of Herod was quite irksome to the Jewish people. He ruled as a Roman, with his allegiance to the Empire and to that kind of peace and order. He was at odds with the Jewish people but built them a splendid Temple that was doomed to be destroyed in the Zealot revolt around 70 AD.

The Genesis passage shows that all these events were God's will. Once the kingship departed from Israel, the Messiah would come. Since Messiah means anointed with oil, or king, this prediction was fulfilled by Herod's kingship. He served as the sign the Messiah was coming.

The high priests and scholars were very important and knew these Scriptures, so Herod knew them as well.

The spectacular Star of Bethlehem, forming and shining in the desert sky, was another omen, one of hope for believers, one of fear for Herod.

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,
Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.
When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.
And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born.
And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet,
And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.
The scholars knew that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, which was appropriate for the Son of David, that shepherd and king who was born in Bethlehem. The tiniest city became the greatest possible place of influence.
There are several candidates for the Star of Bethlehem. My choice is the merging in the sky of bright planets, Jupiter and Venus. This happened in various ways over a period of time. Another candidate is a supernova. Another is a comet. Jupiter means Zeus Father, and we find the ancient astronomers attributed the same qualities to various planets, including Mars as the war planet. Jupiter is the king "star" and also the largest of the planets.
I have heard various combinations of planetary mergers listed as the Star of Bethlehem. Few people still call it a "pious fiction."
We had similar conjunctions happening when I had my large telescope. As the local astronomer, I kept answering questions about Jupiter and Mars and Venus in near conjunction. It was spectacular and impossible to ignore.
Likewise, the Hale-Bopp comet was so bright that everyone talked about it.
Thus various distant prophecies were fulfilled in the same generation for the birth of Jesus to be marked:

  • The Messiah coming from the House of David.
  • From that unknown little village Bethlehem, the tiniest becoming the best known.
  • The non-Jewish king heralding the Messiah.
  • The Star of Bethlehem leading non-Jews to the Savior.
The Wise Men were probably advanced in their ability to track the stars and planets. I grew up with everyone looking down on any society that existed before the Industrial Age, but there are many marvels from the past based on higher math.

The best example can hardly be disputed. The Great Pyramid is at least 4,000 years old. No one has equaled the precision of its alignment with the North, East, West, and South. The base of the vast structure was many acres, and yet completely level. No one could even get into it for many centuries, and what they found mystified them. People have been studying it ever since, and yet no one knows how it was built. The three large pyramids imitate the alignment of the belt stars in Orion, and many more examples of intricate planning exist. The ancient Greeks looked upon the Egyptians with great awe because of this knowledge, but we still do not know its extent or how they obtained it.

So the Jews and Romans, all the Roman Empire must have marveled at the natal star. Then Herod had great scholars from the East tell him that they were there to worship the King of the Jews. We see that as good and faithful, but it scared the current king of the Jews, and he vowed to eliminate his competition.

Needless to say, these wonders brought the cross to the Holy Family. They needed to remove themselves from Herod's wrath - and did, fulfilling another prophecy.

And yet, the wrath of the king and the power of the Roman Empire could not keep the Son of God from fulfilling His mission. We should be in awe that the family came back to Jerusalem for religious observations and Jesus appeared in the Temple to carry out His Father's will - speaking to the elders and teachers, another step in revealing Himself to Judaism and the Gentile world.

Human Intellectual History
There is a breach in human intellectual history. The change is clear at a certain point, though it is not the same as saying, "This is when Napoleon was born."

The change is philosophical, that is, a complete alteration in the way in which the world is viewed. For the sake of simplicity, we can call it Rationalism, where all notions of the divine are removed.

Darwin's Black Box deals with this. No one in science can attributed anything to God, so this is strictly forbidden today. Many of the great men and women of science did so in the past, but that is not allowed today.

This Rationalism is also the main influence in established Christianity in the West. One can be a theologian for a lifetime and give notable lectures, as long as one talks "about God" or "God language" or "faith concepts" as long as faith in God is not taught. Much of this is hidden behind institutionalism, the language of denominations (like Rome, WELS, the Latter Day Saints), so people do not notice easily, until they press some points.

It is far more than secularism. It is the complete extraction of God from any and all causes. That is why your BBQ grill in wrecking the atmosphere, they say, and why only you can prevent global warming, aka climate change. Young college stoogunts have yelled at me for doubting and even denying global warming.

Anyone can see how this changes everything about the established denominations. They use the faith words but they have no faith in anything the Bible teaches, so they repeat memorized formulas and offer rationalistic solutions:

  1. We need more ways to appeal to people.
  2. We need to ordain women to make them feel better about their role.
  3. We need more counseling.
  4. We need more programs.
  5. We need ministers with the right personalities.
  6. We need smells and bells, or alternately, rock bands and popcorn.

No one needs the Word. Some people were arguing the meaning of Luther's hymn - one little Word shall fell him (Satan). They wanted to know "what word." I said "any Word of God" which most of you do not believe, and I was called an angry elf.

That is why we can read Luther's sermon and say he was really off about science, but his grasp of the Word is better than anyone else's. He allowed the Spirit to teach him, not the Church of Rome or its great scholars.

All the degrees in the world make no difference if one is not taught by the Word directly. Moreover, those degrees mean nothing to people who do not believe - it only makes them more angry.

That different philosophy is why Luther does not try to prove miracles but discussed them. He does not need to know the number of Wise Men or exactly where they came from. Now all the astronomers acknowledge there was indeed that Star of Bethlehem, but nothing has changed in science. One astronomer complained it was used to increase attendance in December each year. He thought that was just horrible.

29. And in order that Christ might forever stop the mouth of such babblers, he created for his birth a special new star as yet unsullied by their babbling.

Knowing that they might say that he was born under the power of this star, he meets them beforehand and says: This star is not like one of those about which you are speculating. If the future fate of all men rests in the stars, as you teach, then there can be no such power in this star, which is new and of a different nature than the other stars, of which you have hitherto not heard or known anything. Again, if none of the other stars had any power over Christ, having his own new star, it follows that they have no power over any human being, because Christ was in every respect a man like other men. Furthermore, if this new star had no power over other men, existing only for a short time, it certainly had also no power over Christ, as he is just like all other men. For this reason astrology is mere tomfoolery.

Astrology gave us our second greatest believer and theologian - Martin Chemnitz. He was so good at casting horoscopes that he was given a special post in a royal library where he had access to every book one could ever want. He became an expert in the Early Church Fathers (not Walther and Pieper) and lost all interest in astrology. He used that incredible store of knowledge to write The Examination of the Council of Trent and other books, including his senior editorship of the Book of Concord and Formula of Concord.

Was this also God's will and design? We can see how unpleasant and even harsh circumstances can create special abilities and interests in believers, sometimes being the very source of their conversion to the Christian Faith.

My Lutheran pastor friend had a difficult time growing up as a Jew, and he had no sense of forgiveness. He became a faithful Lutheran Christian and a pastor. He was rewarded with constant death threats. He was also hated by members of his family for deserting the tribe.
His health is very fragile and has been for some time. And yet, these are all ingredients for him preaching the Gospel.