The Gifts of the Magi

Epiphany was one week ago today. At that time, we looked at Sedulius’s treatment of the gifts of the Magi in his Paschale carmen.

Niels Hemmingsen, too, provides a spiritual reading of the gifts in the sermon for Epiphany in his Postils, but it is different from the one found in Sedulius. Where Sedulius uses the gifts to teach about Christ’s person and work (King, God, Man), Hemmingsen applies the Magi and their gifts as an example for seekers of and believers in the Savior Sedulius describes.

In this sermon, Hemmingsen treats to loci or topics in the appointed Gospel reading (Matthew 2:1-12): the “history with its circumstances and doctrines” and the “use of the history and the spiritual significance of the gifts of the Magi.” The first is by far the longer; the second is translated below.

The Use of the Story of the Magi, and the Spiritual Significance of Their Gifts

The individual circumstances of this history provide the church with some doctrine, as we have seen; now, however, as far as the general usage of the passage is concerned, we should learn two things from the Magi. Of these, the first is to seek Christ by the leading of the star. The second is, once we have found Christ, to offer gifts. We follow the leading of the star with the Magi when we set before ourselves the Word of God alone as a lamp for our feet, and seek Christ in his own Word.

Once we have found Christ, we offer gifts with the Magi (gold, frankincense, and myrrh) when we show forth gold–that is, pure faith and a chaste life; frankincense–that is, confession, invocation, and thanksgiving; and myrrh–that is, patience under cross and affliction.

Moreover, we shall offer gifts to Mary–that is, to the church of Christ and the ministry of the Word; and to Joseph–that is, to those who preside over the church. That is, we shall promote the ministry with all our powers and resources, so that the church may be in the best condition possible in this world, through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom be glory forever. Amen.


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