Th Epiphany falls on a Friday night this year. This is a good thing since more people might be available for an extra service in the week than if it were a Tuesday or Wednesday. In some of of my former congregations we have done a variety of things to close out the Christmas season: have a huge bonfire of all the spent Christmas trees, it is indeed a ‘great light’ (but those who are ecologically savvy recommend sending them to area lakes for fish nests); end of the Christmas Carol sings (the last official day of the Christmas season, we put away that part of the hymnal for 11 months +); chili dinner fellowship meal followed by informal communion service with the reading of the Epiphany texts; having a night walk in town with lanterns and luminaria–and singing those hymns of light and proclamation of the Good News of Christ.
- The Isaiah passage matches the Gospel well. It proclaims light and visitors from afar with the gifts of gold and frankincense. The Prophet’s message is Good News to Israel in the 5th century BC, Good News to 1st century Israel, Good News for us in the 21st century. Reading it on the Epiphany ties past and present together nicely in a poetic way.
- The Psalm is the excellent compliment to the OT reading. It gives the suggestion of singing “We Three Kings”–a must for this Holy Day. Don’t fail to notice that it is also a hymn of justice and compassion for the poor. Make sure that you have addressed the nature of God’s reign in Jesus when you proclaim the Incarnation.
- The lection from Ephesians is a great reading, jam packed with serious theology. It highlights the Good News of Christ to the Gentile world, which is essential to understanding this High Holy Day–the revelation of God to those who have not been in covenant, but are made partners in Jesus.
- The Gospel is the close of the birth and infancy narrative of Jesus. Most of the bathrobe Christmas plays have already brought out the Wise Guys from the East, but the best time to tell their story is on The Epiphany. It is one of those stories that is not easily forgotten. i remember hearing Will Willimon preach on this text when i was 20 years old. It was a life changing message of how God finds a way to break through to the most unlikely of folks–even a bunch of astrologers from Babylon. We tend to sterilize them, make them regal and sophisticated, when in all honesty they were probably a little on the eccentric and peculiar side. I think the eccentric and peculiar in the world would prefer to hear this story than the one that usually gets portrayed.