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Epiphany Sunday
Ephesians 3:2-12

Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests!  In the name of Jesus, dear friends in Christ, You know I really enjoy good mysteries.  I would say that probably most movies or shows that I’m interested in develop a pretty involved plot, that kind of keeps you interested, keeps you on edge, keeps you watching as the plot thickens and starts to slowly unfold and little by little you gain more and more information until bam!  At the end it all becomes clear.  They’re intriguing and enjoyable.  And then there’s some shows or movies where you’re watching and the excitement is mounting and building, the plot’s thickening, oh boy, this is getting good, you’re on the edge of your seat and then…and then…those fateful words come across the screen: To Be Continued…  WHAT!!!  You’ve got to be kidding me!  That’s ridiculous!  I just wasted an hour and a half of my life and nothing is resolved!  Ugh!!  I’m left hanging with all kinds of questions, what’s going to happen?  How’s this going to turn out?

And I’m guessing I’m the only one in this room who’s frustrated by things like that, right? J  Isn’t there’s a part of each one of us that just doesn’t like unfinished business?  We don’t like loose ends.  We don’t like to be left in the dark.  We don’t like to be left wondering.  To be confused.  In fact, I’d assume most of us hate being out of the loop.  Hate not knowing something or hate being the last person to find out about something big.  We want to know what’s going on.

Now what about the most important thing in all of life and death, the most important thing in all of the world and throughout all of time- wouldn’t it be nice to know about that?  For that not to be a mystery to you?  Today let’s thank God that He hasn’t left you or me in the dark about the most important thing in all of life, in all of history, in all of the world!

The word “Epiphany,” which is the church festival we’re celebrating today, literally means “a revealing, an appearance, bringing something to light;” and we use that term sometimes in our language, like “I had an epiphany!”  What we really mean is “I just figured something out” or “Something just became clear to me” or “I went from being in the dark to understanding.”  Now the whole truth about Christmas, the reality that God came as a human being, born in Bethlehem, that Jesus lived in this world perfectly for every human being, died on the cross for everyone, paid for sins in full is a fact.  But none of that would have done us any good had we never heard about it, had the message never come to us, had we remained clueless about it, had God never used His means to work faith in our hearts to know it and believe it.  Then we would have been left in the dark, clueless, out of the loop, it would have all remained a mystery to us.  Why?  Because each one of us was born into this world clueless, in the dark, by nature sinful, we didn’t know the true God.

The apostle Paul was the same way.  By nature he didn’t know the true God.  In fact, he spent his early life persecuting God, persecuting Christians, throwing them in prison.  And yet, to Paul, who was “less than the least of all God’s people” God revealed the mystery of the Gospel, gave him “insight into the mystery of Christ” by the Holy Spirit.  Or, think about the Magi.  If God hadn’t revealed to them through probably the OT prophecies or hadn’t put a star in the sky for them, they would have remained in the dark and clueless about the Christ-child.

If God hadn’t revealed the mystery of the gospel to you and me then we too would be in the dark.  The word “mystery” in our text is the Greek word “mysterion” which describes something that is true all along, but has be revealed to someone in order to get it- just like a mystery show that ends “to be continued” you’d never know the ending unless it was revealed to you.

And think about what a mystery the gospel is!  It’s a mystery that God, who exists in infinite might and glory, would have anything to do with us sinners and our hopeless condition.  But He did!  It’s a mystery that this God would then not send someone else to do the job, but come HIMSELF and work out our salvation completely by Himself!  But He did!  It’s a mystery that God who rightly has all glory would then take on human flesh, suffer and die, so sinners can live in heaven with him!  But He did!  It’s a mystery that God would do all of this not just for one race of people, but do this for all!  But He did!  It’s a mystery that He would then demand nothing from people but would actually take it upon Himself to use this Gospel message to work faith in people’s hearts in order that all the blessings of the gospel would be theirs!  It’s a mystery that God would then entrust the awesome privilege of sharing this powerful Gospel message not to angels, but to sinful people like the apostle Paul, like you and me!  But He does!

It’s a mystery because on our own we would have never known, would never have had a clue, except that God revealed the truth to us.  Infinitely better than any mystery novel or who-done-it show is to know the mystery of the Gospel.  We aren’t left in the dark wondering about the truth, wondering who our God is, wondering about our salvation, we aren’t left as second-rate people, but rather “through the Gospel the Gentiles (people like you and me) are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.”  You see, the gospel is everything about Jesus and what He has done for our salvation, and more!  That message actually carries with it God’s own power to reveal the truth to us, to cause an epiphany inside of us, to bring us from being in the dark about God, to knowing who God is.

Now imagine what life would be like if you didn’t know the truth of the gospel, if it all remained a mystery to you.  You wouldn’t have any focus in life, no real purpose- other than to survive, no idea where you came from, no idea where you’re going, no idea what’s going to happen when you die, in other words, you’d be in the dark.  Now some people in our world are in the dark and don’t seem to bothered by it.  They say, “Life’s good!  I’m doing all right, don’t need church stuff, don’t need God stuff, don’t need to know all those words and teachings of the bible, and that might be fine and good for now, but there’ll come a time when knowing the secret, knowing the mystery of the gospel is more important than anything else.  Oh it might take lying on a death bed, losing a loved one, a sudden heart-attack, or job loss, or sickness and if you don’t know the mystery of the gospel, you’ll really know what its like being left in the dark, searching, wondering and scared.  But, then again, what about us?  Are there times when we let the mystery become a mystery to us?  I mean, we kind of forget it, don’t we?  We let the day-to-day grind of things distract our focus and attention off what really matters.  Aren’t there times when we act as if we don’t know the mystery of God’s love for us?  Times we harbor self-serving attitudes, thoughts of anger, complacency.  How well do we know the mystery?

The mystery of mysteries is that even though we are often ungrateful, God still went to extraordinary lengths in order to rescue us from our sins, by coming Himself as a small baby and placed in a manger, by suffering ingratitude and injustice while living here, and then taking upon himself the world’s sin and dying on the cross.  And then since we would have never known it on our own He went to extraordinary lengths to make sure that the message of the gospel, the revealed mystery, the good news about Jesus our Savior, remained intact throughout the centuries, was passed on from generation to generation, so that you heard about it and are hearing about it again today!

Imagine what life would be like if you and I firmly believed this truth all the time, to firmly grasp the mystery of the gospel, that my status is that I’m God’s own child all the time no matter what, that the Christ-child came for me, that I know the mystery so I know without a doubt God wants me in heaven, if we firmly grasped that then: What would it matter if I got skipped over in the promotion at work, I’m part of the body of Christ!  What would it matter if I just don’t seem to ever have enough money to do those fun things I’ve always wanted to do, I’m an heir of the riches of Christ, the unsearchable riches of Christ!  What would it matter if my house just isn’t the dream house I’ve always wanted, I’ve got an unimaginably awesome mansion awaiting me in heaven!  What does it matter that my complaints and suggestions for the government fall on deaf ears, I know that through faith I can approach the God of all the heavens and the earth with boldness and freedom and confidence!

Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests!  In the name of Jesus, dear friends in Christ, You know I really enjoy good mysteries.  I would say that probably most movies or shows that I’m interested in develop a pretty involved plot, that kind of keeps you interested, keeps you on edge, keeps you watching as the plot thickens and starts to slowly unfold and little by little you gain more and more information until bam!  At the end it all becomes clear.  They’re intriguing and enjoyable.  And then there’s some shows or movies where you’re watching and the excitement is mounting and building, the plot’s thickening, oh boy, this is getting good, you’re on the edge of your seat and then…and then…those fateful words come across the screen: To Be Continued…  WHAT!!!  You’ve got to be kidding me!  That’s ridiculous!  I just wasted an hour and a half of my life and nothing is resolved!  Ugh!!  I’m left hanging with all kinds of questions, what’s going to happen?  How’s this going to turn out?

And I’m guessing I’m the only one in this room who’s frustrated by things like that, right? J  Isn’t there’s a part of each one of us that just doesn’t like unfinished business?  We don’t like loose ends.  We don’t like to be left in the dark.  We don’t like to be left wondering.  To be confused.  In fact, I’d assume most of us hate being out of the loop.  Hate not knowing something or hate being the last person to find out about something big.  We want to know what’s going on.

Now what about the most important thing in all of life and death, the most important thing in all of the world and throughout all of time- wouldn’t it be nice to know about that?  For that not to be a mystery to you?  Today let’s thank God that He hasn’t left you or me in the dark about the most important thing in all of life, in all of history, in all of the world!

The word “Epiphany,” which is the church festival we’re celebrating today, literally means “a revealing, an appearance, bringing something to light;” and we use that term sometimes in our language, like “I had an epiphany!”  What we really mean is “I just figured something out” or “Something just became clear to me” or “I went from being in the dark to understanding.”  Now the whole truth about Christmas, the reality that God came as a human being, born in Bethlehem, that Jesus lived in this world perfectly for every human being, died on the cross for everyone, paid for sins in full is a fact.  But none of that would have done us any good had we never heard about it, had the message never come to us, had we remained clueless about it, had God never used His means to work faith in our hearts to know it and believe it.  Then we would have been left in the dark, clueless, out of the loop, it would have all remained a mystery to us.  Why?  Because each one of us was born into this world clueless, in the dark, by nature sinful, we didn’t know the true God.

The apostle Paul was the same way.  By nature he didn’t know the true God.  In fact, he spent his early life persecuting God, persecuting Christians, throwing them in prison.  And yet, to Paul, who was “less than the least of all God’s people” God revealed the mystery of the Gospel, gave him “insight into the mystery of Christ” by the Holy Spirit.  Or, think about the Magi.  If God hadn’t revealed to them through probably the OT prophecies or hadn’t put a star in the sky for them, they would have remained in the dark and clueless about the Christ-child.

If God hadn’t revealed the mystery of the gospel to you and me then we too would be in the dark.  The word “mystery” in our text is the Greek word “mysterion” which describes something that is true all along, but has be revealed to someone in order to get it- just like a mystery show that ends “to be continued” you’d never know the ending unless it was revealed to you.

And think about what a mystery the gospel is!  It’s a mystery that God, who exists in infinite might and glory, would have anything to do with us sinners and our hopeless condition.  But He did!  It’s a mystery that this God would then not send someone else to do the job, but come HIMSELF and work out our salvation completely by Himself!  But He did!  It’s a mystery that God who rightly has all glory would then take on human flesh, suffer and die, so sinners can live in heaven with him!  But He did!  It’s a mystery that God would do all of this not just for one race of people, but do this for all!  But He did!  It’s a mystery that He would then demand nothing from people but would actually take it upon Himself to use this Gospel message to work faith in people’s hearts in order that all the blessings of the gospel would be theirs!  It’s a mystery that God would then entrust the awesome privilege of sharing this powerful Gospel message not to angels, but to sinful people like the apostle Paul, like you and me!  But He does!

It’s a mystery because on our own we would have never known, would never have had a clue, except that God revealed the truth to us.  Infinitely better than any mystery novel or who-done-it show is to know the mystery of the Gospel.  We aren’t left in the dark wondering about the truth, wondering who our God is, wondering about our salvation, we aren’t left as second-rate people, but rather “through the Gospel the Gentiles (people like you and me) are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.”  You see, the gospel is everything about Jesus and what He has done for our salvation, and more!  That message actually carries with it God’s own power to reveal the truth to us, to cause an epiphany inside of us, to bring us from being in the dark about God, to knowing who God is.

Now imagine what life would be like if you didn’t know the truth of the gospel, if it all remained a mystery to you.  You wouldn’t have any focus in life, no real purpose- other than to survive, no idea where you came from, no idea where you’re going, no idea what’s going to happen when you die, in other words, you’d be in the dark.  Now some people in our world are in the dark and don’t seem to bothered by it.  They say, “Life’s good!  I’m doing all right, don’t need church stuff, don’t need God stuff, don’t need to know all those words and teachings of the bible, and that might be fine and good for now, but there’ll come a time when knowing the secret, knowing the mystery of the gospel is more important than anything else.  Oh it might take lying on a death bed, losing a loved one, a sudden heart-attack, or job loss, or sickness and if you don’t know the mystery of the gospel, you’ll really know what its like being left in the dark, searching, wondering and scared.  But, then again, what about us?  Are there times when we let the mystery become a mystery to us?  I mean, we kind of forget it, don’t we?  We let the day-to-day grind of things distract our focus and attention off what really matters.  Aren’t there times when we act as if we don’t know the mystery of God’s love for us?  Times we harbor self-serving attitudes, thoughts of anger, complacency.  How well do we know the mystery?

The mystery of mysteries is that even though we are often ungrateful, God still went to extraordinary lengths in order to rescue us from our sins, by coming Himself as a small baby and placed in a manger, by suffering ingratitude and injustice while living here, and then taking upon himself the world’s sin and dying on the cross.  And then since we would have never known it on our own He went to extraordinary lengths to make sure that the message of the gospel, the revealed mystery, the good news about Jesus our Savior, remained intact throughout the centuries, was passed on from generation to generation, so that you heard about it and are hearing about it again today!

Imagine what life would be like if you and I firmly believed this truth all the time, to firmly grasp the mystery of the gospel, that my status is that I’m God’s own child all the time no matter what, that the Christ-child came for me, that I know the mystery so I know without a doubt God wants me in heaven, if we firmly grasped that then: What would it matter if I got skipped over in the promotion at work, I’m part of the body of Christ!  What would it matter if I just don’t seem to ever have enough money to do those fun things I’ve always wanted to do, I’m an heir of the riches of Christ, the unsearchable riches of Christ!  What would it matter if my house just isn’t the dream house I’ve always wanted, I’ve got an unimaginably awesome mansion awaiting me in heaven!  What does it matter that my complaints and suggestions for the government fall on deaf ears, I know that through faith I can approach the God of all the heavens and the earth with boldness and freedom and confidence!

They mystery of the Christ-child in Bethlehem, the mystery of the Gospel, the mystery of God’s love for you in Christ, is no longer a mystery to you.  God’s revealed to you the truth!  And that makes all the difference in life and death!  Amen!

Amen!