Lord God, you who by the leading of a star revealed your Son to the Gentiles: mercifully grant that we, who know you now by faith, may after this life behold your glory in the face of the same your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
How beautifully this collect portrays our Lord Jesus: First by a heavenly sign, a star, an emblem of striking and sovereign glory. Jesus emits a bright radiance that is set before mankind in a lofty and distant star that draws nearer and nearer. The false prophet Balaam, for all of his religious deviancy, was constrained to point to the coming Son of God as a star. “I see him, but not now; I behold him but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel” (Numbers 24:17). This image of the shining Redeemer of men is used again in Holy Scripture (Revelation 22:16). Balaam announces that at his point in time his vision is of a star that is not yet visible to the human eye. The Person it represents is not near. This unworthy Gentile who is at enmity with God and his people is nonetheless subject to the sovereignty of God and compelled to enunciate his truth. All must and will acknowledge the supremacy of Jesus. He is also the holder of the scepter of the Kingdom of God: “The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience the nations is his” (Genesis 49:10).
At the birth of the Savior of men the star becomes visible and draws near to a band of several Gentile scholars of ancient astronomy, stargazers from the East. The foretold star draws the Magi closer to the One it prefigures until at last they meet him and pay their homage. The event of the visit of the wise men speaks volumes of the wise government of God and the unspeakable glory of the Son. The Lord rules the universe and may summon or create a star at will for his purpose. Something of omnipotent might and energy is packed into heavenly bodies by their Maker to cause them to endure as luminaries to reflect his splendor for vast periods of time. They move by the finger of God. That such arrangement can be employed to indicate the advent of the Son is manifestation of his divine excellence and exalted mission on earth – the bringing of the kingdom that God himself establishes among men on a universal basis to comprise both Israel and the Gentile world.
A marvel is beginning to unfurl in the Epiphany. The Royal Lion of Judah foreseen by Jacob (Genesis 49:8-12) will become the Ruler of all nations. The whole earth will see his star and perceive it in the gospel. Some hearers will be seekers, like the sages of the Orient, and some will be skeptics, but the name of Christ will be emblazoned among all peoples. His status and sovereignty will be declared through a second medium, added to which will be the message of his Saviourhood. The word of the Lord Jesus conveyed to us in the Scriptures will make him known to us through faith in their reliable and proven testimony. This knowledge of the Lord Jesus is implied in the text of our seasonal collect: “Mercifully grant that we, who know you now by faith… ” Christ is made manifest in the Testaments of prophetic and apostolic authorship. The word is the telescope that enables us to view the heavenly grandeur of the Son and the celestial realities about which he informs us. Scripture is indispensable and precious because God discloses himself and proffers his mercy through the entirety of his most holy book – the Bible, written by those who knew him and who were guided and inspired by him. Men wrote or recited the words of Scripture in their own characteristic way. The Spirit of God informed, illuminated, and infallibly influenced their minds as original and ultimate Author.
The consummate vision of God will occur at the conclusion of the journey of this life of faith. As the collect confidently affirms, faith will pass away and a face will shine in all its beauty, glory, and grace before us – a face that will charm our hearts and win all our devotion so that we may “behold your glory in the face of the same your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Shine upon us, “bright Morning Star” (Revelation 22:16).