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Christ Is the Light of the World - Epiphany Sunday - John 8

A service for Epiphany Sunday based on John 8.

Worship Service


Epiphany is perhaps the least observed of the seasons of the Christian year in most mainline congregations. While Advent, Lent and Eastertide receive attention, Epiphany is often eclipsed. Epiphany comes from the word that refers to "manifestation" or "appearance," and it focuses on how Jesus Christ, who is revealed through his baptism, words and ministry, is the light of the world.

In much of the western church, Epiphany occurs on January 6, but the celebration of this day more often occurs on the Sunday closest to January 6. The worship space continues to be marked by the colors of Christmas—white, gold and yellow—to communicate that this is a season of joy and light.

Theme of the Service

This worship service focuses on the theme of Jesus as "the light of the world…" (John 8:12). From his baptism through his ministry, Jesus brought the light of God into a world that had been darkened by sin.

Please note that the structure of this service totally integrates the liturgy and the preaching of the Word. The liturgy is structured according to four sub-themes of the main theme: the world lost its light; Jesus brings the light; we are children of the light; and we are on our way to the city of light. The sermon finds its way into each of these four sections. Though this may not be the normal structure of a worship service, we encourage you to consider it for a special celebration around the theme of Epiphany.

We Gather in the Presence of God 

Prelude: "As with Gladness Men of Old" [see music notes]

The Proclamation: Genesis 1:1-3, Isaiah 9:2, 60:1, John 8:12 [see liturgy notes]

Anthem: "Arise, Shine," Pearson

*God's Greeting and Congregational Amen!

*Song of Celebration: "As with Gladness Men of Old" PH 63, PsH 358, RL 228, SFL 143, TH 226, TWC 181

The World That Lost Its Light 

Meditation [see sermon notes]

Hymn: "Out of the Depths" PsH 256, TWC 465
or: "Christ, Whose Glory Fills the Skies" PH 462/463, RL 463, PsH 481, TH 398, TWC 562, UMH 173
or: "O Come, O Come, Immanuel" PH 9:1, 3, PsH 328: 1, 3, 4, 6, RL 184:1, 3, 4, 6, SFL 123:1, 6, TH 194:1, 2, TWC 133: 1, 2, UMH 211: 1, 3, 4, 6

The Lord Who Brings the Light

...By His Birth 

Meditation [see sermon notes and liturgy notes]

Song: "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing" PH 31/32, PsH 345, RL 196, TH 203, TWC 171, UMH 240 [see music notes]

…By His Journey Into Suffering 

Anthem: "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross," Martin [see music notes]
or: Hymn: "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross," PH 100/101, PsH 384, RN 292/293, SFL 166, TH 252, TWC 213, UMH 298

…By His Victory Over Death

*Song: "Christ the Lord is Risen Today" PH 113:1, 3, 4, PsH 388:1, 3, 5, RL 312/325:1, 3, 5, SFL 172:1, 3, TH 273/277:1, 3, 5, TWC 234/250:1, 3, UMH 302:1, 3, 5 [see music notes]

The Children of the Light 

Meditation [see sermon notes]

Anthem: "For You Shall Go Out with Joy," Grotenhuis [see music notes]

Song: "I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light" RN 152:1-3, SNC 77:1-3, TWC 539:1-3, UMH 206:1-3, WOV 649:1-3 [see music notes]

(During the singing of this hymn an offering will be received for…) 

The Glorious City of Light

Meditation [see sermon notes]

*Song: "By the Sea of Crystal" PsH 620, TH 549
or: "Jerusalem, the Golden" PsH 618, RL 579, TH 539, TWC 754

We Go Out with Joy 

*The Benediction with Congregational Amen!

*Song: "All Glory Be to God on High" PH 133, PsH 247, RL 620, TH 102 [see music notes]
or: "Once in Royal David's City" PH 49, PsH 346, RL 201, TH 225, TWC 161, WOV 643, UMH 250

Postlude: "All Glory Be to God on High" [see music notes]

*You are invited to stand.

Liturgy Notes

  1. Reading these passages at the beginning of worship will set the spirit for this service. Select three or four readers of different ages and coach them to read firmly and clearly so that these verses clearly proclaim God as the source of all light in this world.
  2. The section of the service that proclaims Christ as the one who brings light to this dark world is divided in three subsections so that Christ's entire ministry is represented. The printed order of service will show this, but the worship leader or pastor should also point out that the birth, suffering, death and resurrection of Christ bring his light.
  3. The transitional comments of the worship leader or pastor will help worshipers sense that the story of Christ as the light of the world is not completed without understanding that he both calls us to be children of the light and enables us to journey to the city where there will be "no night" and the "glory of God gives light" (Revelation 21:22-27).

Sermon Notes

Notice how this sermon is spread throughout the service so that the sermon and the liturgy are wholly integrated with each other. This pattern reinforces both the liturgy and the sermon. Plan transitions carefully so that the worshipers move with you smoothly from one thought to the next. Between some elements of the service, a carefully crafted transition will help direct the hearts of worshipers.

Though this service aims to proclaim Jesus as the light of the world, the first meditation should explain that light begins in the dark. Darkness has invaded our world because of the fall (see Genesis 3). Many references to the darkness of our world, such as Psalm 74:20, Psalm 82:5, and Ephesians 6:12, could be cited. You may even consider darkening the sanctuary at this time to visualize the darkness. When we are in the dark, we eagerly wait for the light.

The Old Testament prophecies make clear that Christ is to bring the light (see Isaiah 9:1-2 and Isaiah 60:1-2). The surprise, of course, is that the light of the world comes in a form no one expected, a babe in a manger, who brought this light through suffering, death and resurrection.

Intricately woven into Christ's statements about the light he brings is his eagerness for us to understand that we, his children, are also "the light of the world" (Matthew 5:14-16, Ephesians 5:8-10 and Philippians 2:14-16). In these words we hear our calling to live lives of obedience that reflect his life and our responsibility to be different from the culture around us.

But the story is not completed with living as children of light. We are on a journey, and our ultimate destination is not a world that is marked by darkness, but a "new heaven and earth" where light that comes from God's glory is dominant as shown in John's description of the glorious city of light in Revelation 21 and 22.

Music Notes

The prelude suggestions as well as alternative harmonizations for the opening hymn are as follows:

DIX ["As with Gladness Men of Old"]

  • Organ
    • Bish, Diane. The Diane Bish Organ Book,  vol. 4. Fred Bock B-G0776 [1985] (M)
    • Burkhardt, Michael. Praise and Thanksgiving,  set 4. Morningstar MSM-10-754 [1991] (E-M)
    • Ferguson, John. A Thanksgiving Triptych.  Morningstar MSM-10-603 [2001] (E-M)
    • Held, Wilbur. 6 Hymn Settings for Epiphany.  Morningstar MSM-10-206 [1999] (E-M)
    • Jordan, Alice. A Season and A Time. Broadman 4570-37 [1977] (E-M)
    • Krapf, Gerhard. Sing and Rejoice, vol. 5. SMP KK323 [1984] (adaptable to piano, E)
    • Leavitt, John. Christmas Suite.  Augsburg 11-10857 [1998] (E-M)
    • Manz, Paul. Three For Epiphany. Morningstar MSM-10-203 [1992] (E-M)
    • Wold, Wayne L. Augsburg Organ Library – Epiphany.  Augsburg 11-11073 [2001] (E-M)
    • Wold, Wayne L. God with Us. Augsburg 11-10975 [1999] (E-M)
  • Handbells
    • Honoré, Jeffrey. Dance Africana on "Dix". CPH 97-6745 [1999] (3-5 octaves with opt. percussion, level 2)
    • Kinyon, Barbara Baltzer. Two Hymns of Praise. Beckenhorst HB53 [1985] (3-4 octaves, E-M)
  • Alternative Harmonization for Organ
    • Burkhardt, Michael. As Though the Whole Creation Cried. Morningstar MSM-10-555 [2001]
    • Busarow, Donald. All Praise to You, Eternal God. Augsburg 11-9076 [1980]
    • Pelz, Walter L. As With Gladness Men of Old. Concordia 97-5873 [1985]
    • Thiman, Eric. Varied Accompaniments to Thirty-Four Well-Known Hymn Tunes. Oxford ISBN 019 323210 3 [1937]
  • Alternative Harmonization for Piano
    • Organ, Anne Krentz. Let It Rip! At the Piano, vol. 2. Augsburg ISBN 0-8006-7580-0 [2003]

The anthem "Arise, Shine" by Donald Pearson is published by Aureole Editions AE70 [1994] and scored for SATB voices, congregation and organ (E-M).

Resources for the songs within the section of the service "The Lord Who Brings Light" can be found in:

MENDELSSOHN ["Hark! The Herald Angels Sing"]

  • Alternative Harmonization for Organ
    • Goode, Jack C. Thirty-four Changes on Hymn Tunes. H W Grey GB 644 [1978]
    • Johnson, David N. Free Harmonizations of Twelve Hymn Tunes. Augsburg 11-9190 [1964]
  • Alternative Harmonization for Piano
    • Farlee, Robert Buckley. Let It Rip! At the Piano, vol. 2. Augsburg ISBN 0-8006-7580-0 [2003]

HAMBURG ["When I Survey the Wondrous Cross"]

  • Choral Anthem Resource
    • Martin, Gilbert M. When I Survey The Wondrous Cross. Presser 312-40785 [1970] (SATB and organ E-M)

EASTER HYMN ["Christ, the Lord Is Risen Today"]

  • Alternative Harmonization for Organ
    • Ferguson, John. Hymn Harmonizations for Organ, bk. 2. Ludwig O-07 [1983]
    • Wood, Dale. New Settings of Twenty Well-Known Hymn Tunes. Augsburg 11-9292 [1968]
  • Alternative Harmonization for Piano
    • Pam Gervais. Let It Rip! At the Piano. Augsburg 11-11045 [2000]

The anthem "For You Shall Go Out with Joy" by Dale Grotenhuis is published by Roger Dean HRD 107 [1974] and scored for SATB voices and organ (E-M).

Resources for the offertory can be found in the following if you prefer to separate the singing of the hymn and the receiving of the offertory:

HOUSTON ["I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light"]

  • Alternative Harmonization for Organ
    • Burkhardt, Michael. As Though the Whole Creation Cried. Morningstar MSM-10-555 [2001]
    • Alternative Harmonization for Piano
    • Sedio, Mark/Cherwien, David. Let It Rip! At the Piano, vol. 2. Augsburg ISBN 0-8006-7580-0 [2003]
  • Organ
    • Biery, James S. Twentieth Century Hymn Tune Settings. Morningstar MSM 10-863 [1995] (E-M)
    • Osterland, Karl. Lift One Voice. Augsburg 11-11039 [2000] (E-M)
    • Wold, Wayne L. (1998) Augsburg Organ Library – Epiphany. Augsburg 11-11073 [2001] (E-M)
  • Piano
    • Hamilton, Gregory. As the Grains of Wheat. Augsburg ISBN 0-8006-7577-0 [2003] (M)
    • Sedio, Mark. Once Led to Your Font. Augsburg Fortress ISBN 0-8006-7785-4 [2005] (M)
  • Handbells
    • Behnke, John. I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light. Concordia 97-6611 [1996] (3 or 5 octaves, level 2)

Resources for the closing hymn and postlude are as follows:

ALLEIN GOTT ["All Glory Be to God on High"]

  • Alternative Harmonization for Organ
    • Johnson, David N. Free Harmonizations of Twelve Hymn Tunes. Augsburg 11-9190 [1964]
    • Wood, Dale. New Settings of Twenty Well-Known Hymn Tunes. Augsburg 11-9292 [1968]
  • Alternative Harmonization for Piano:
    • Maynard, Lynette. Let It Rip! At the Piano, vol. 2. Augsburg ISBN 0-8006-7580-0 [2003]
  • Organ
    • Bach, J. S. The Biggs Book of Organ Music. H. W. Grey GB 645 [1979] (M) 
    • Burkhardt, Michael. Praise and Thanksgiving, set 2. Morningstar MSM-10-752 [1989] (E-M)
    • Haan, Raymond H. Festival Hymn Preludes. SMP KK329 [1985] (E-M)
    • Held, Wilbur. All Glory Be to God on High. Morningstar MSM-10-706 [1995] (E-M)
    • Leupold, A. W. An Organ Book. Chantry Music Press [1960] (E-M)
    • Manz, Paul. Ten Chorale Improvisations. Concordia 97-4554 [1962] (E-M)
    • Pachelbel, Johann. Selected Organ Works, vol. 2. Kalmus 3761(adaptable for piano, E-M)
    • Peeters, Flor. 30 Chorale Preludes, set 2. Peters 6024 [1950] (M)
    • Scheidt, Samuel. Second Volume of the Sacred Hour at the Organ. Fischer O 3809 [1953] (E-M)
    • Sweelinck, Jan Pieterszoon. Music for a Celebration, set 4. Morningstar MSM-10-579 [2005] (E-M)

Glossary of Hymnal Abbreviations

  • PH The Presbyterian Hymnal (Presbyterian Church USA; Westminster/John Knox Press)
  • PsH The Psalter Hymnal (Christian Reformed Church; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
  • RL Rejoice in the Lord (Reformed Church in America; W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Company)
  • RN Renew! (Hope Publishing Company)
  • SFL Songs for LiFE (children's songbook; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
  • SNC Sing! A New Creation (Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, Christian Reformed Church,
  • Reformed Church in America; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
  • TH Trinity Hymnal (Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Presbyterian Church in America; Great Commission Publications)
  • TWC The Worshiping Church (Hope Publishing Company)
  • UMH The United Methodist Hymnal (United Methodist Publishing House)
  • WOV With One Voice (Augsburg Fortress)