Epiphany – January 1 or 6, 2023

Lectionary Texts

Isaiah 60.1-6 proclaims that light has come upon God’s people in the midst of the world’s darkness. This light enables us to see the abundance of God’s grace—so much so that other nations will also be drawn to this light. This passage also uses images that Matthew may have had in mind in the visit of the magi.

Psalm 72 is a prayer for the enthronement of a new king, asking that the king reign with justice (that is, with concern for all people, especially the poor), put an end to oppression and violence, and have dominion far and wide; and that the realm be blessed with abundance and peace.

Ephesians 3. 1-12 says that God’s self-revelation in Christ is not only for Israel but for the whole world: “the Gentiles have become members of the same body.”

In Matthew 12. 1-12 Magi from the east seek the newborn king. Though they are from another nation and practice a different religion, they see Jesus as having influence and even sovereignty over their own lives.

Preaching Thoughts

The 8th day. Merry Christmas. If you observe Epiphany on Sunday, Jan. 1, 2023, that’s the 8th day of Christmas. (Epiphany is January 6.) It’s a good time to remind folks that Christmas is not the 27 days from Nov. 28 – Dec. 24, but the twelve days from Dec 25 – Jan. 5. Twelve days. Let the liturgical rhythm help us get out of the commercialized, consumerist, materialism of our culture, and really observe the Christmas season as the Feast of the Nativity of Christ. So it’s still appropriate to sing Christmas songs this week!

Revealing. “Epiphany” means “revealing.” On this day God (in Jesus) was revealed to the people of the world, symbolized in the magi. The word “magi” that Matthew uses suggests Zoroastrian astrologers: not quite philosophers, and certainly not kings. Nothing scriptural suggests there were three, just because there were three gifts. (The gifts are an allusion to Isaiah 60.6: “They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall proclaim the praise of God.” Matthew, foreshadowing the cross, adds myrrh.) Nor should we insist the magi were men, though we might assume so. (So there could have been dozens of them, or maybe just a couple of old women.) But that’s not what Matthew is likely to have had in mind, since this is a purely symbolic story: what matters is that they represent people from outside the Jewish faith.

Light and justice. The theme of this season is that Jesus is the light of the world. The season begins with the light of a star and ends on transfiguration Sunday with Jesus shining with divine light on a mountain top. Along the way we hear a lot about light. Watch for it each week. (The song Light for the World, below, highlights those references.) The light of Christ’s love illumines our path and guides our way. We look at life in the light of God’s love, and that changes how we see the world. And the light of that love shines in us, so that our own lives become lights for others: streetlamps that offer guidance and safety, lighthouses that warn of danger, a new dawn that signals hope and beauty. Even when the scriptures aren’t literally talking about light, they describe how God’s love changes the world like light changes the darkness.

We also hear a lot this year about justice. God calls us to live in harmony with God’s spirit of compassion, which brings justice in the world like light in the darkness. Today’s world of political turmoil can feel pretty dark: things are worrisome, uncertain, unseen, and hard to discern. The world is full of shadowy figures who with selfish motives seem to avoid the light of truth, but haunt the poorly lit places. God’s mercy and justice shine light into such a world.

A King. Part of Matthew’s reason for this story is that it creates a reason for Herod’s slaughter of the boys of Bethlehem—setting up Matthew’s narrative invention of the flight to Egypt, to both parallel the life of Moses, and also with more foreshadowing to portray Jesus as a “wanted” person. But the crucial aspect of the story is the revelation of Jesus as a “king,” even to people outside our faith. We don’t have kings these days (though we do kind of miss Queen Elizabeth, don’t we?). But Jesus as “king” means someone who rules in our hearts. Someone whose word is law, whose laws are the way things work in their domain. Jesus as “king” suggests that love isn;t an option: it’s a requirement.

Of course such a mysterious tale as the traveling magi invites rich pondering on many themes:
• Faith as searching, sojourn and pilgrimage.
• Magi might represent the alien, the foreigner, the “infidel” who practices religions strange to us. How should we relate to those who practice other religions?
• Now there’s no star now, no baby. How might Christ be revealed now to others, especially those outside the Church?
• The magi were attentive to signs in the stars, and wiling to travel to a foreign land to honor a foreign king. Are we willing to be open to God revealed in unexpected, foreign or even “improper” places?
• The magi followed that star faithfully. Imagine being focused on a guiding light, without wavering or being diverted.
• What are the guiding stars in our lives?
• We can expect to encounter our Herods who oppose us or want to co-opt our faith; we will have to be ready to resist, to refuse to cooperate with the Powers.
• The magi returned home by another road. What new roads might we need to take?

Call to Worship

1.
Reader: People of faith, look! In our darkness a light shines: the star is love.
All: Alleluia! In gratitude we follow the star of love.
The star moves ahead of us, and leads us faithfully.
Alleluia! In wonder we follow the star of love.
The star hides itself in each of us: in everyone we meet, in all God’s people.
Alleluia! In devotion we follow the star of love. Alleluia!

2.
Leader: Rise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
All: Darkness covers the earth, but you have risen upon us.
We see and are radiant. Our hearts thrill and rejoice.
By the grace of your mercy may your dawn rise upon us.
Give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
and guide our feet in the way of peace. Amen.


3.
Leader: God of Mystery, your light has led us to you.
All: Alleluia! All through our days your Word has shone; your star has lit the way.
You have accompanied us, guided us, and guarded us.
Alleluia! We have come through miles and years to this place, this moment.
We have come to praise you, to honor you, to worship you.
Alleluia! We thank you for your grace. We wonder at your presence.
And we are still learning to seek your presence and to follow your light.
We are still asking, “Where is the child?”
Help us to search, and help us to find.
God, we praise you for the One who shepherds your people.
Alleluia! We worship you with thanksgiving and praise.
Open the eyes of our hearts to see, and to wonder. Alleluia!


4.
Leader: God, you led the magi by a star to find the Christ child.
All: Lead us by your Word, and draw us closer to you.
The magi gave the child gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
Help us by your Spirit to honor Christ by giving our gifts.
Like the magi, we are seeking you. Help us always to seek, and to find.
Alleluia! Come, Holy Spirit, and transform us by your grace. Alleluia!

5.
Leader: Creator God, we praise you!
All: Risen Christ, we greet you!
Holy Spirit, we are one body by your grace.
You alone are holy, and we worship you.
Light of the world, you shine upon us, and we thank you.
Light of Christ, you lead us, and we gladly follow.
Alleluia! Shine upon us in our worship,
that we may bear your light into the world. Alleluia!

Collect / Prayer of the Day

1.
Holy Mystery, your light shines in the darkness. The bright star of your loving presence hovers over us, shines within us, and leads us steadfastly. We pause now to watch and listen, to take our reckoning by your star, that we may continue to follow faithfully, to seek you in this world, and to give you our gifts. Speak your Word, for we are listening. Amen.

2.
God of Mystery, God of Revealing: as the magi searched diligently for the Christ child, may we also continually seek your presence. As the light of the star led the magi, we pray that the light of love will lead us always. May the light of your Word shine upon us now and lead us nearer to you. Amen.

3.
Loving God, the magi sought the Christ child over miles and years. We, too, seek your Christ. By the light of your Word, lead us to life. Speak to us and we will listen. Lead us and we will follow. Amen.

4.
God of truth, your star led the magi to the Christ child. Your Word is a lamp for our feet. Lead us by your light. Shine your Word upon us. Help us to seek, to see, and to follow. Amen.

5.
Eternal God, you led the magi by a star to the Christ child. Lead us by the light of your Word into the presence of Christ. Bring us near, bless us with your light, and enable us to open the treasure chests of our hearts and offer you our gifts. Guide us by your holy light, so that as the scriptures are read and your good news proclaimed, we may hear with joy what you are saying to us today. Amen.

6.
Light of stars, glimmer of grace, shine for us.
Spreading light of the morning dawn, give us hope and beauty.
Light of Christ, gleaming in one another’s eyes,
speak to us of your glory.
Light of love, flaming in our hearts,
lead us toward you in wonder. Amen.

Prayer of Confession

God of Love,
we confess we do not always follow your star of love;
we turn aside; we weary of the journey.
We confess we sometimes cooperate with Herod;
we sometimes fail to give our gifts.
Forgive us; renew your Spirit in us.
Be our star and guide us.

Response / Creed / Affirmation

1.
      We trust in God, Creator of all that is, whose light guides us and whose grace extends to all people of the world.
      We follow Jesus, the Christ of God, Light of the world, who is the ruler of our hearts, before whom we bow in adoration and reverence, to whom we offer the gifts of our hands and hearts. Jesus loved people and healed them, and taught the way of true wisdom. Though many would make him king, he was not a ruler of a nation but the Prince of Peace. Earthly kings were threatened by him, and crucified him, but he was raised from the dead, sovereign even over life itself.
     We live by the Holy Spirit, whose light is a star that guides us, whose grace gives us gifts to offer the world, whose companionship makes us one with peoples of all nations, tribes and traditions. In the power of that Spirit we devote ourselves to love and justice, for the sake of Christ, the sovereign of our hearts.

2.
Leader: The grace of the Beloved, Jesus Christ, be with you.
All: And also with you.
Pastor: The splendor of Christ shines upon us.
People: The light of Christ guides us.
A star of grace and hope shines on our horizon.
We will follow.
The light of love will lead us to the Christ child.
We will honor him and offer our gifts.
The powers of this world will try to use love for greedy purposes.
We will learn to go by another road,
to live by another way, the way of mercy and justice.
Lead us, O Christ, by the light of your love. Amen.


Listening Prayer

(suitable as a Collect, preparation for hearing scriptures, or invitation to prayer)

God of Light, Star of Love,
we fix the eyes of our hearts on you.
Lead us; guide us
to where shall see Christ,
and kneel.

Eucharistic Prayer

[Advent Eucharistic Responses includes some musical responses (Sanctus, Memorial Acclamation and Amen) that are appropriate for Epiphany.]

After the introduction, the body of the prayer may be read responsively or by the presiding leader(s) alone.

——— #1 ———

God is with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your heart.
We lift them up to God.
Let us give thanks to the Holy One, our God.
It is good and beautiful to give God our praise.

We thank you and praise you, Divine Mystery,
Creator of all that is and all that shall be.
Stars of your making sparkle above us,
and to those who are wise and attentive they reveal your presence.

With starlight and pillars of fire you have led us out of darkness and into light;
through prophets and poets you have led us in wonder and love.
And you have given us gifts, that we may live fully and richly in grace.
As magi knelt before the Christ child and offered their gifts
we kneel in humble gratitude and offer you gifts,
in one voice with all creation singing your praise.


             [Sanctus, spoken or sung:]
        Holy, holy, holy One, God of power and might,
        heaven and earth are full of your glory.
        Hosanna in the highest.
        Blessed is the one who comes in the name of God.
        Hosanna in the highest.
               [or alternate]

        [Alternate version : this and and following responses sung to the tune of “We Three Kings”]
        
Holy, Holy, Holy One, God whose love is bright as the sun,
        all Creation sings your praise! Hosanna we sing as one!
        O, Blessed is the one who comes in your name, O Holy One.
        Praise! Hosanna in the highest! Peace on earth, to everyone.

Blessed are all who come in your name, and blessed is Jesus, your Christ.
He bore your love to all people, including those of foreign lands and religions.

He offered us gifts from the treasure chest of his faith:
he forgave and taught; he fed the hungry and healed the broken;
he proclaimed a new Realm of grace and justice.
The rulers of Empire sought him and killed him,
but you raised him from the dead.

This is the wisdom that leads us, the star that lights our way.

[The Blessing and Covenant …]

Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of me.”
As often as we break this bread and share this cup
we remember his death and resurrection until he comes again.
Remembering these, your mighty acts in Jesus Christ,
we offer ourselves in praise and thanksgiving
as a living and holy sacrifice, in union with Christ’s offering for us,
as we proclaim mystery at the heart of our faith:


        Memorial Acclamation
                
[Sung version:]
        Dying, Christ destroyed our death. Rising, Christ restores our life.
        Christ will come again in glory, leading us all to life.
        O, God of mercy, God of light, God whose love in us burns bright,
        lead us, guide us, walk beside us, fill us with your gentle light.

Pour out your Holy Spirit on these gifts of bread and cup,
that they may be for us the body and blood of Christ.
Pour out your Holy Spirit on us,
that we may be for the world the Body of Christ.

Open up your treasure chest in us,
that we may be a royal priesthood of your love.
Guide us by the light of your love to do justice, to practice mercy,
to kneel humbly before you in every child of yours.
And you, children, will be called prophets of the Most High,
for you will go before God to prepare God’s ways,
to give knowledge of salvation to God’s people by the forgiveness of their sins.”
By your tender mercy may your dawn from on high break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death,
and to guide our feet into the way of peace.
Great Amen
[Sung version:]
        Amen! Your will be done. Amen, O Holy One.
        Make us now the living Body of Christ, our Love, your Son.
        O, praise be yours, and glory be all throughout eternity!
        Alleluia! Alleluia! Thanks and praise we sing to thee.


——— #2 ———

God is with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your heart.
We lift them up to God.
Let us give thanks to the Holy One, our God.
It is good and beautiful to give God our praise.

God of light, you blessed the darkness with Creation.
You fashioned us in the light of your love.
In the night of our bondage
you broke the power of oppression and set us free,
leading your children by a pillar of light.

You call us always to follow your light,
even the faintest star of love and justice and mercy.
Therefore with those who come from afar to honor you,
and with all Creation, we sing your praise.

            [Sanctus, spoken or sung:]
        Holy, holy, holy One, God of power and might,
        heaven and earth are full of your glory.
        Hosanna in the highest.
        Blessed is the one who comes in the name of God.
        Hosanna in the highest.
               [or alternate version]

Blessed are all who come in your name,
and blessed is Jesus, your Christ, light of the world.
He loved and healed, and showed to many your light shining in them.
He showed us the light of love
and taught us to forsake all that glitters and follow that light alone.
By oppression he was crucified,
but by grace you have raised him from the dead,
still coming among us to renew your covenant to be with us in love.


[The Blessing and Covenant…]

Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of me.”
As often as we break this bread and share this cup
we remember his death and resurrection until he comes again.
Remembering these, your mighty acts in Jesus Christ,
we offer ourselves in praise and thanksgiving
as a living and holy sacrifice, in union with Christ’s offering for us,
as we proclaim the mystery of our faith:

             [Memorial Acclamation, spoken or sung:]
        Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.
                     —or—
        Dying, Christ destroyed our death. Rising, Christ restores our life.
        Christ will come again in glory.
             [or alternative]

Pour out your Holy Spirit on these gifts of bread and cup,
that they may be for us the body and blood of Christ.
Pour out your Holy Spirit on us,
that we may be for the world the Body of Christ,
your Word made flesh in our daily lives,
light for the world, in the name of Christ. .

                [Spoken or sung]
        Amen

———— #3 ———


God is with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your heart.
We lift them up to God.
Let us give thanks to the Holy One, our God.
It is good and beautiful to give God our praise.

Blessed are you, O God, Creator of all things,
and ruler of all that is to come.
In the beginning was your Word, which is the light of life,
through which you have made all things.
Though we turn from your light, still you shine upon us and within us,
and lead us to seek your presence, guided by the light of wonder.
Therefore, in company with those who bring you gold,
we honor you with our obedience and our praise:

            [Sanctus, spoken or sung:]
        Holy, holy, holy One, God of power and might,
        heaven and earth are full of your glory.
        Hosanna in the highest.
        Blessed is the one who comes in the name of God.
        Hosanna in the highest.
               [or alternate version]

Blessed are all who come in your name,
and blessed is Jesus, your Christ.
Child of Mary, Light of the World and Prince of Peace.
He has brought us the light of hope and healing,
and embodied your Covenant to be with us in love and blessing.
[… The Blessing and Covenant…]

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it:
for you have raised your Crucified Christ from death.
Therefore in company with those who bring you myrrh
we offer you our life unto death,
as we proclaim the mystery of our faith.


             [Memorial Acclamation, spoken or sung:]
        Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.
                     —or—
        Dying, Christ destroyed our death. Rising, Christ restores our life.
        Christ will come again in glory.
             [or alternative]

Pour out your Holy Spirit on these gifts of bread and cup,
that they may be for us the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Pour out your Spirit on is, that we may be the Body of Christ for the world.
In company with those who bring you frankincense
we offer you our prayers, our worship and our service.
Unite us with you, with one another, and with Christ, in service to others.
Grant that by these gifts at work in us we may be light for the world
in the love of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit.

               
[Spoken or sung]
       Amen.
____________
* The Blessing and Covenant
[I usually don’t print the words. I want people to be looking at the bread, not their bulletins.]

On the night in which he gave himself for us
Jesus took bread, blessed it,. broke it, and gave it to his disciples,saying,
“Take and eat; this is my body.”
In the same way, after the supper he took the cup,
blessed it with thanks and gave it to them, saying,
“Drink of this, all of you. This is my blood,
poured out for you and for many, in a new Covenant,
which is the forgiveness of sin.”
As long as we break this bread and share this cup
we remember his death and resurrection, until he comes again.

Prayer after Communion / Dedication / Sending

[Adapt as needed]
1.
Gracious God, we thank you for ( the mystery that/ this mystery in which) you have given yourself to us. Send us now into the world, attentive to the star of your love, following it with faithfulness, seeking its glory in all we meet, and shining with its light through our humble giving of the gifts you give us, in the name and Spirit of Christ. Amen.

2.
Gracious God, we thank you for ( the mystery that/ this mystery in which) you have given yourself to us. You have fed us with the light of your love, even in the shadow of Empire. Send us into the world to serve you faithfully. Lead us by your light; give us courage to follow and not turn back. Give us wisdom to know when to go by another road. Guide us with the light of Christ and the power of your Spirit. Amen.

3.
Gracious God, we thank you for this mystery in which you have given yourself to us. You have revealed yourself to us in Christ, in the Word, in this meal, and in your Spirit within and among us. Send us into the world to search for your presence, to follow your light, and to be a light for others in the name of Christ. Amen.

4.
Gracious God, we thank you for (the mystery that/ this mystery in which) you have given yourself to us. By the light of your grace you draw us closer to your heart. Send us into the world to seek your presence, to give our gifts, and to lead others toward you by the light of our love and faith, in the name of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

5.
Gracious and ever-present God, we thank you for (the mystery that/ this mystery in which) you have given yourself to us. Bless us that by your gifts at work in us we may shine with the brightness of your appearing. Send us into the world to bear your light, to guide those who seek you and to illumine the path of those who struggle. Christ, Light of the World, be with us! Holy Spirit, star of our hearts, shine brightly! Amen.

Suggested Songs

(Click on titles to view, and hear an audio clip, on the Music page)

Light for the World (Original song) – [A weekly Epiphany “Theme song”]
A dialogue between soloist and congregation. May be used as a “theme song” throughout the Epiphany season, using one to three verses per week. Throughout the season the congregation sings the chorus; each week the soloist’s verses relate to the day’s lectionary readings. Lyrics for this week:

Congregation
Love, may we live by your light.
Let us be light for the world.

Cantor:
Magi who followed the light of your star offered their gifts to your glory.
May we shine brightly wherever we are. Our love will tell your story.

May we be guided by love alone, the star shining bright in our darkness.
For when we follow the leading of love, we’re nearer to you, God.


Guiding Star (Tune: Of the Father’s Love Begotten)

Christ we search for you with longing, but we need not travel far.
In the darkness shines a mystery; in the night a radiant star.
For your love appears before us, gleaming right where we are,
evermore and evermore.

So we bring our gifts to honor you, and we come on bended knee,
offering our hearts and living, that to you the glory be.
May your light adorn and guide us, now and in eternity,
evermore and evermore.

Christ, you are the star that guides us; your love is the way we know.
Keep us faithful in our seeking: may we take the path you show.
May the light of your love shine in us, here and everywhere we go,
evermore and evermore. Amen.


        Two song songs of Invitation to Communion (Found in Advent Table Songs)

Lovely Jesus (Tune: Rocking)
Lovely Jesus, light divine, light divine,
light of the world and light of mine.
I will follow, follow, follow you.
Lead me in what love will dare to do.
Here I bring my gifts to you.
Use them as your love will do.

Gentle Jesus, friend and guide, friend and guide,
now you call us to your side.
Here you give yourself as living food,
and we feast in joy and gratitude.
Gentle Jesus, make us one;
may your will in love be done.


Your Light (Tune: What Child Is This)

O God, your light now fills our sight;
your song now fills our hearing.
Our gifts we bring, and your praise we sing,
as we feast at Christ’s appearing.
Christ, Christ, Emmanuel,
your love we share, your grace we tell.
Christ, Light of the World, we come!
O fill us, Love, with your brightness!


       Three Blessing Songs (All are in Advent Blessing Songs)

Light of Christ (Tune: Away in a Manger)

My friends, may the star over Bethlehem’s skies
now give you God’s peace, make you gentle and wise,
and lead you, as though by a light from above:
the light of dear Christ in you, shining with love.


The Star (Tune: What Child Is This)

O God, may all your Church make flesh
the Word that you are giving;
the love of Christ and the Spirit’s power
make holy all of our living.
Love, love shall be the light
by which we live: so bless our sight.
Love, love shall be the star
by which you guide our living.


Walk Beside You (Tune: We Three Kings)

Go in peace, and take from this place
our dear love and God’s deep grace.
Serving, healing, Christ revealing, be God’s human face.
Oh, God of wonder, God of light,
shining with a love so bright,
bless you, guide, you, walk beside you,
fill you with God’s gentle light.