On the subject of internationalism we might mention several varieties. Politically there is that internationalism represented by 20th century communism, which has been destructive and enslaving–some even say ‘evil.’ It has sought to destroy governments, institutions, and individual liberties–and with an arrogant voice rage against God.
There is that internationalism which is economic in nature and is championed by NAFTA and similar trade agreements. Some argue that such free trade across national borders is good and promotes prosperity; others fear loss of jobs and national sovereignty.
And then there is Christian internationalism, which is pleasing to and commanded by God. Christian internationalism seeks to promote true spiritual liberty by shepherding all people to Christ who alone can give spiritual peace and security to the sinner.
Christian internationalism is based on a twin foundation: 1) a common heritage; not all can trace their ancestry back to Peter the Great, Frederick the Wise, or Louis the Pious, but we are all descended from Adam the sinner. 2) God loved all in all nations and sent His Son to be the universal Savior from sin.
The season is called Epiphany with reference to the manifestation of Jesus Christ as the Son of God and Savior also of the Gentiles. It is sometimes called the Christmas of the Gentiles, a standard text being the story of the Three Magi (Matthew 2:1-12). On Christmas certain Jewish shepherds near Bethlehem were told of the birth of the promised Savior by an angelic herald. God did not short the Gentiles. To certain Magi in the East God sent a special star in the heavens to announce the birth of the King and to lead them across national boundaries to the very place where He was. What a bright star it was! It proclaimed that the saving message of Jesus was meant to be international in scope; and in this story we have an explanation of our own Christian status.
The Light-giving Word
The Magi not only saw and studied the star, but God’s divine word explained to them its significance. No doubt a prophecy of Daniel shed light on its meaning, and the power of that Word made them willing to travel long distances to seek out and worship the Christ.
For of what use are star-signs in the sky if the divine word does not explain them? And of what use is the divine word if it were only a message of historical interest, but without any potency? And of what use is the potent, light-giving word to us Gentiles if it is restricted to Jews? That the gospel goes beyond such limitations is proved by the international star and the actions of the Magi. We ourselves testify to the gospel’s saving power to convert, forgive, lead, and keep.
Led by the star explained by the word, the Magi did not show up at Christ’s feet with empty hands. Rich presents they brought. It is evident that these Gentiles were accepted as citizens by faith in Christ’s international kingdom of grace. Economic free-traders claim benefits for both sides in a transaction. So here. The gospel of a Jewish-born Savior was exported to the East. And from the East came back worshipers, importing tribute and gifts befitting the King of Glory–exactly what the prophet Isaiah had foretold (chapter 60).
Because His kingdom is truly international, Christ has graciously accepted our homage and gifts of faith. He permits and instructs us to assert ourselves in His gracious kingdom of peace and hope. The best way, therefore, to celebrate Epiphany is to worship our King and lead others to see His beauty. [This is, after all, the mission-festival season of the church year.] We do that by bringing our gold, frankincense, and myrrh as well as our lives to Him to be placed at His disposal for this very purpose. We do that by assisting our missions at home and abroad with our support and prayers. We do that by manifesting the spirit of true Christian internationalism.
–Pastor David Fuerstenau