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Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
“Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?” What an awkward question to ask the man who is already wearing the crown. But the magi had come to what they thought was the right place. After all, what better place would there be than the palace to find someone who was born to be the king? This was a sensitive subject for Herod, because he himself was not born to be a king. He was no descendent of David; in fact, he was appointed by the Roman Senate to kingship over the region of Judea. So neither Herod nor his sons were actually born to be the king of the Jews. From the verses following our text, we know Herod’s response to what he perceived as an insult: he ordered the murder of all male children under the age of three—the nuclear option to preserve his place on a stolen throne.
“Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?” Herod gathered the religious leaders to himself, and, consulting the Old Testament prophecies, they advised the king that the Child should be sought in Bethlehem, which means “house of bread.” These leaders rightly believed that someone who was born to be the King of the Jews would be of the tribe of Judah, and, at the very least, Bethlehem would be a logical place to start looking. As we recall from Luke’s Gospel, Joseph and Mary had gone to Bethlehem for the census, since Joseph was of the line of King David. Mary, also, was a descendant of King David.
“Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?” Herod really wanted to know. History tells us that he had already eliminated one royal rival to keep his position, and he would not stop until he had eliminated this one, too. It didn’t matter that this was a Child; that would only seem to make the job easier. He sent the magi with instructions to find the Child and then come back and let him know the location. And once Herod knows where the Child is, he would settle the matter with extreme prejudice.
“Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?” The answer to that question is vital to us, as well. We have entered the Epiphany season. Epiphany means “manifested,” “shown,” “revealed.” So it follows that we must ask the question, “Where does this King reveal Himself?” And the answer is before us. He reveals Himself in the star, the light showing the way to the Light of the world, the Light which no darkness can overcome. He reveals Himself to us as the Child of Bethlehem, the living Bread from heaven in the house of bread. He reveals Himself in the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh brought by the magi: gold, a gift to mark the Child’s role as King and God, just like the golden mercy seat on the Ark of the Covenant; frankincense to mark the Child’s role as Priest, lifting prayers before the throne of grace; myrrh, to mark the Child’s role as the Sacrifice bearing the sins of the world to the cross, with perfumed oil to anoint His lifeless body. The sign above His head will announce that He is “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.” The Cross is before us even during Epiphany, for on the Cross Jesus shows Himself to be our King.
“Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?” Just as He was revealed in the royal and priestly gifts He received from the magi, today He reveals Himself to you in the gifts He gives, gifts both regal and priestly. He reveals Himself to us in His Word, inspired by the Holy Spirit and given to us in Holy Scripture, spoken to us for the forgiveness of our sins, in Holy Absolution, as it has been proclaimed to us from the pulpit. He reveals Himself in the Holy Supper, where He comes to us in His body and blood, humbly, hidden in bread and wine. And He comes to us in the Gifts He shed His blood and gave His life to give us, gifts which the Holy Spirit placed on us in Holy Baptism: forgiveness, eternal life, and salvation.
“Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?” He is here, today, for you. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.