Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem,  saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”  When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him;  and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.  They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:  “‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’”  Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared.  And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.”  After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was.  When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.  And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.  And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way (Matthew 2:1-12 ESV).
Yesterday afternoon at lunch, my near three-year old noticed (again) that the Advent Calendar was no longer hanging in the kitchen.
“Advent Cander” he inquired yet again in his little way.
To which, this time, I replied, “Oh, no, sweetie. Advent is over. Tomorrow is Epiphany!”
“E” (“E”) “pi” (“pi”) “pha” (“pha”) “ny” (“ny”). “Epiphany.”
Smiling, I said, “That’s right. Epiphany is when the wise men found Baby Jesus.” And my little echo tried to repeat each phrase after me, as well, ending with a big smile and scrunchy eyes, “Baby Jesus!” Then, I explained a bit more, “Epiphany (‘piphamy!) is when (“when”) God (“God!”) reveals (“‘veals”) Himself (big pause here…”Him…sef”) to (“to”) us (“us”) in (“in”) Jesus (“Jesus…BABY Jesus!”).” Big smile.
And that’s how simple it is. Even my nearly three-year old knows the joy of “Baby Jesus” for us. When all of the other words and concepts are too hard, “Baby Jesus” is sure ground on which to land. But that’s not how Herod felt. When Herod heard about Baby Jesus, he was troubled. This Baby King would ruin all his power and well-laid plans. And to be honest, this Baby Jesus is trouble for me, too. Me, with all my self-reliance, my indignation, my impatience and my inability to follow His kingly commands. Why, just a half an hour before my sweet parenting lunch moment, I was annoyed at my clingy near three-year old for hanging off me as I tried to start this devotion. This Baby Jesus, God Himself revealed to us, is trouble for us all. He exposes our darknesses, knows our weaknesses and sees our rebellious hearts.
He has come to dethrone us, just as surely as Herod feared he would be dethroned. We, gods of our own making ruling over our self-made kingdoms of sin and denial, are dethroned by the coming of this Baby King. We are cast off our high places and brought to wallow in the knowledge of just how wretched we are. And there we would be left to die, as we deserve, for failing to uphold the King’s decrees.
But this troublesome Baby Jesus doesn’t stop there. He reveals to us the whole of who God is, and the God that He reveals in His death on the cross is a God of mercy and deep love — a God who dethrones us, yes, but only in order to crown us as His very own sons and daughters. This troublesome King lays down His life for us, so that our sins may be forgiven and we may at last attain those crowns. He teaches us to simply say, with a smile as we land on His sure ground with joy: Jesus…BABY Jesus…King Jesus…OUR Jesus.
Let Us Pray: O God, by the leading of a star You made known Your only-begotten Son to the Gentiles. Lead us, who know You by faith, to enjoy in heaven the fullness of Your divine presence; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (Lutheran Service Book Altar Book, Propers of the Day, Collect for The Epiphany of Our Lord, One-Year Lectionary, pg. 852).