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Epiphany Sunday - Isaiah 60, Matthew 2, John 8

A service for Epiphany Sunday based on Isaiah 60, Matthew 2 and John 8. We come to worship the Christ who brings his light into the darkness of this world. "

Worship Service

Theme of the Service

Though many Christian traditions will take note of Epiphany on their worship calendar, there is some disagreement on a variety of matters. When is it…the sixth of January, or the first Sunday of January? How long is it…a day or a season? Whatever position your community may take on these matters, communities are enriched by observing Epiphany as this worship service suggests.

Epiphany is a biblical word that means "manifestation" or "revelation". It refers to God's action of manifesting his glory to the world by bringing salvation through Jesus Christ. So Epiphany is the shepherds recognizing the Messiah, the Magi acknowledging the King of Glory, and the disciples seeing Christ as the Son of God. Epiphany occurs any time our eyes of faith are opened to see the Christ as our salvation.

This service of worship will move through three phases. It will begin by reflecting on the Old Testament prophecy that the Messiah will come as a light to the Gentiles. Then the Magi will follow his star and proclaim him as King. Finally the gospels will reveal to us, in Jesus' own words, that he is the light of the world.

Epiphany and Mission Emphasis

We suggest that Epiphany is a most natural time for the church to put its focus on missions. This Sunday might be the ideal time for a Mission Emphasis Sunday. When Christ is revealed as the light of the world, we are reminded that as a church we have a mission to bring the news of Christ to our world. Just as God reached to us and revealed his light, so we must reach to the world and bring light to them. Just as our eyes of faith have been opened we must seek the same for our world.

* * *

We Gather in the Presence of God

Prelude: "How Bright Appears the Morning Star", arr. Sedio, Pelz, Manz

The Call to Worship

*Opening Litany and God's Greeting

The people who have walked in darkness have seen a great light.
The light has shined on the nations who live in the shadow of death.
The true light that enlightens every person is coming into the world. The Word
became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth, and we beheld his
glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.
The Lord is our light and our salvation. We shall not be afraid.
The peace of Christ be with you all.

*Song: "How Bright Appears the Morning Star" PH 69, PsH 357, RL 367, TH 515

*The Worshipers Greet Each Other

We Bow in Penitence 

The Call to Confession

Our Spoken Prayer of Confession

Almighty and merciful God,
We confess that we have sinned against you
and one another in both our actions and our inactions.
We recognize that in Jesus our light has come,
Yet often we choose to walk in the shadows and ignore the light.
Gracious God, forgive our sins
And remove from us the veil of darkness
which shrouds our lives.
Illumine us by your Word
so we may shine with the radiance of Christ's glory.

Our Sung Prayer: "Christ, Whose Glory Fills the Skies" (Lux prima: PsH 481, TH 398)
(Ratisbon: PH 462/463, RL 463) (Dix: TWC 562)

The Assurance of God's Pardon 

God Speaks Through His Word

Sung Prayer for Illumination: "Blessed Jesus, at Your Word" PH 454, PsH 280, RL 530, RN 93, SFL 56, TH 303

About a Light to the Gentiles

A Reading of Isaiah 60:1-9

The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!


Response: Anthem: "Arise, Shine, for Your Light Is Come", Folkerts
OR: Congregational Song: "Arise, Shine, for Your Light Is Come"
PsH 198, RN 123

About a New King

A Reading of Matthew 2:1-12

The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!


Response: The Offering
"As with Gladness Men of Old", v. 3
(PH 63, PsH 358, RL 228, SFL 143, TH 226, TWC 181) Wold
OR: "Kings of Orient", Manz
OR: "See the Glowing Star", Kemp

About Jesus, the Light of the World

A Reading of John 8:12-30

The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!


Response: "Shine, Jesus, Shine" RN 247, SFL 239, SNC 128, TWC 721, WOV 651

We Reaffirm Our Mission to the World 

Our Profession and Calling

In our world, bent under the weight of sin,
Christ gathers a new community.
Satan and his evil forces
seek whom they may confuse and swallow;
but Jesus builds his church,
his Spirit guides,
and grace abounds.
Following the apostles, the church is sent –
sent with the gospel of the kingdom
to make disciples of all nations,
to feed the hungry,
and to proclaim the assurance that in the name of Christ
there is forgiveness of sin and new life
for all who repent and believe –
to tell the news that our world belongs to God.

From Our World Belongs to God: A Contemporary Testimony,
Articles 37, 44, ©1987, CRC Publications, Grand Rapids MI,
1-800-333-8300. Used by permission.

Response: "Bring Forth the Kingdom" RN 153, SFL 154, SNC 123 AND/OR: A Mission Report

Our Commitment

In a world estranged from God,
where millions face confusing choices,
this mission is central to our being,
for we announce the one name that saves.
We repent of leaving this work to a few,
we pray for brothers and sisters
who suffer for the faith,
and we rejoice that the Spirit
is waking us to see
our mission in God's world.

From Our World Belongs to God: A Contemporary Testimony,
Articles 44, ©1987, CRC Publications, Grand Rapids MI,
1-800-333-8300. Used by permission.

Intercessory Prayer for the Global Church and its Mission
concluded with "The Lord's Prayer" in unison.

We Go Out to Serve

*Benediction and Congregational "Amen!"

*Song: "I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light" RN 152, SNC 77, TWC 539, WOV 649

Postlude: "Trumpet Tune", Young

* you are invited to stand

Liturgy Notes

Some churches are not very familiar with Epiphany, so many worshipers are not acquainted with its rich meaning. It might be wise to include a brief written explanation in the bulletin, worship sheet, or an insert in the worship sheet, that explains the historic background and meaning of Epiphany. It will also be helpful if the worship leader verbally emphasizes the relationship of Epiphany and Missions near the beginning of the service.

The section of the service entitled "We Reaffirm our Mission to the World" is the key to making this worship service practical, and to creating an integration of our theology and our mission. It should be carefully introduced in that way. Lay persons, particularly those who have been missionaries or key leaders in the mission of the church, should be asked to lead in these readings. The prayers of intercession should include petitions for fellow Christians who are suffering for their faith, churches that are oppressed, and those who have been sent out with the gospel in world-wide mission; however, it is also vitally important that local efforts, and those who participate in them, should be visible and included.

Notice that we have included a mission report as part of our response to God's Word. Such a report can make the work and mission of your congregation more real to the worshipers. If a missionary is available, invite her/him to participate in this service. Persons who are active in local mission efforts can be given the opportunity to explain their work. At times we have also made a phone connection with one of our missionaries and channeled it through the public address system of the church so there is a report and interview "in absentia".

The Opening Litany and the Spoken Prayer of Confession in this service was prepared by Len Vander Zee for use in the Eastern Ave. Christian Reformed Church, and is found in Reformed Worship 5, p. 38.

The corporate profession of faith is intended to give the worshiping body an opportunity to express their understanding of who they are, and their commitment to continue in obedience. It is taken from "Our World Belongs to God: A Contemporary Testimony", written by a Synod-appointed committee of the Christian Reformed Church and included in the Psalter Hymnal on pp. 1030 and 1033. For copyright permission, please contact CRC Publications at (616) 224-0819 or

Sermon Notes

In keeping with our effort to combine Epiphany and Mission Emphasis, this sermon should be careful to combine both. We suggest that the message be divided into three sections, each with its own Scripture passage.

Begin with the Old Testament passage of Isaiah. If you prefer, other Old Testament passages may be selected which similarly speak about the coming Messiah. He will bring God's light and will also bring light to "the nations". The meditation should draw in other similar references. It should explore concepts such as "your light", "darkness covers the earth", "the glory of the Lord" and "nations will come to your light".

The story of the Magi from Matthew 2 points to a "next step" in God's manifestation of himself through Jesus Christ. Note how they were from the east and how they followed God's star. But also note that they were totally certain they were coming to honor a king. Their conviction that this was a king created the threat for Herod and stirred his desire to carry out a massacre!

Then make your story complete by stepping into the ministry of Jesus when he proclaims himself as the "light of the world". What did he have in mind by that? What impact do you think it had on his Jewish hearers, and the Pharisees who challenged him? And what does it have to say about the mission of the church in the world?

Music Notes

  1. The music for the prelude is a "design-your-own" partita on Wie Schön Leuchtet. This 16th century melody is here arranged by three 20 th century composers. The pieces composed by Mark Sedio (M) and Paul Manz (D) can be found in Augsburg Organ Library: Epiphany (Augsburg 11-11073 [2001]). The quieter Pastorale by Walter Pelz can be found in A Suite Concertato, "O Morningstar, How Fair and Bright" (Morningstar MSM-10-210 [1990]) (E-M].
  2. Notice that the stanzas of "How Bright Appears the Morning Star" include both the concept of God's revealed glory in Christ and a focus on world mission.
  3. "Arise, Shine, for Your Light Is Come" by Davis Folkerts is an SATB anthem with flute obligato originally published by CRC Publications (241-198-00. [1990]) (M). All CRC Publications anthem settings are now distributed by Selah Publishing.
  4. We have three options for the offertory. You may wish to consider having the congregation sing stanza 3 of "As With Gladness Men of Old" (with its reference to offering) prior to the organ offertory taken from God With Us, Wayne Wold (Augsburg 11-10975 [1999) (E-M). Paul Manz has arranged "We Three Kings" for organ in Three for Epiphany, published by Morningstar (MSM-10-203 [1992]) (E-M). The third possibility involves a children's unison choral anthem, "See the Glowing Star", arranged by Helen Kemp and published by Choristers Guild (CGA-629 [1993]). This anthem can also be found in a congregational song setting in Sing! A New Creation #118.
  5. The Postlude can be found in Organ Album by Gordon Young published by Sacred Music Press (KK280 [1983]) (E).
  6. Piano Possibilities:
    1. "How Brightly Shines the Morning Star", Still More Carols for Piano, John Carter (Hope 8175 [2002]) (E).
    2. "We Three Kings", Still More Carols for Piano, John Carter (Hope 8175 [2002]) (E).

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 (childrens' 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)
  • WOV With One Voice ( Augsburg Fortress)

Music Level Key: E = Easy, M = Medium, D = Difficult