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When Jesus Went to the Temple - First Sunday After Epiphany - Luke 2

A service for the first Sunday after Epiphany built around Luke 2:39-40.

Worship Service

Theme of the Service

During this service we continue the observance of Epiphany and focus our attention on Jesus Christ as the One who came to reveal the light of God and the good news for all people. Usually the high points are Christmas (for his birth) and Holy Week (for his death and resurrection). Yet between those two are many significant steps in which the light of God entered this dark world.

In this service we celebrate the fact that Jesus brought the light of God, and we note that when he first arrived at the temple, this world illustrated its resistance to receiving the light.


Prelude: "A Suite Concertato on 'O Morning Star, How Fair and Bright,'" Pelz [organ]
or "How Bright Appears the Morning Star," Carter [piano]

*The Call to Worship:
Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.
See, darkness covers the earth,
and thick darkness is over the peoples,
but the Lord rises upon you
and his glory appears over you.
Nations will come to your light
and kings to the brightness of your dawn. (Isaiah 60:1-3)

*The Greeting:
The Lord be with you.
And also with you.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father, the Lord Jesus Christ,
in the power of the Holy Spirit.

As we have received God's peace, let us share the peace with each other.
(The worshipers share the peace by saying,
"The peace of the Lord be with you," and responding with, "And also with you.")

Opening Hymn: "How Bright Appears the Morning Star" PsH 357


The Call to Confession

"Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made
that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men.
The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it."
(John 1:3-5)

Let us confess our sin.

The Prayer of Confession:

Eternal God, we confess that while our lips have said one thing, our lives have said another. We honor you one day, not the next. We live our love for you at some times, and become very selfish at other times. Sometimes we love the light and sometimes we live in darkness. Have mercy on us and forgive us for Christ's sake. Amen.

The Assurance of God's Pardon
Hear today the words of Jesus to a sinful woman: "Your faith has
saved you; go in peace." (Luke 8:50)


The Magi
Scripture Reading: Matthew 2:1-12
Song: "Los magos que llegaron a Belén/The Magi Went to Bethl'hem Long Ago" SNC 118

Jesus as a Child
Scripture Reading: Luke 2:22-40
Song: "Song of Simeon" (st. 1-2) PsH 216
Scripture Reading: Luke 2:41-52

(Text – Luke 2:39-40) ;


Jesus' Baptism
Scripture Reading: John 1:29-34
Song: "Crashing Waters at Creation" SNC 237

Choosing the Disciples
Scripture Reading: John 1:35-51
Song: "Will You Come and Follow Me" SNC 267
or "Tú has venido a la orilla/You Have Come Down to the Lakeshore" SNC 269

The Offering and Offertory: "Tú has venido a la orilla/You Have Come Down to the Lakeshore," Farlee [organ]

The First Miracle
Scripture Reading: John 2:1-11
Song: "Songs of Thankfulness and Praise" (st. 1-3) PsH 361, RL 231, TWC 190

The Transfiguration
Scripture Reading: Luke 9:28-36
Song: "Of the Father's Love Begotten" PH 309, PsH 342, RL 190, TH 162, TWC 145
st. 1-2 – all
st. 3 – solo
st. 4 – choir
st. 5 – all
  or "We Have Come at Christ's Own Bidding" SNC 126

Scripture Reading: Luke 9:37-43
Song: "Come and Stand Amazed, You People" PsH 338
st. 1 – choir
st. 2-3 – all
  or "Jesus Heard with Deep Compassion" SNC 124

You Are the Light of the World
Scripture Reading: John 8:12, Matthew 5:14
Candle Lighting
Anthem: "Arise, Shine, for Your Light Is Come," Folkerts

A Time for Quiet Reflection


*The Benediction with Congregational Amen!

*Song: "As With Gladness Men of Old" (st. 1, 4-5) PH 63, PsH 358, RL 228, SFL 143, TH 226, TWC 181

Postlude: "As With Gladness Men of Old," Wold

*you are invited to stand

Sermon Notes:

This sermon is intended to capture the highlights of that part of Jesus' life we hear little about: his childhood and youth. There are three separate events on which the sermon can focus.

  1. The first time Jesus went to the temple was at 40 days old. According to Leviticus 12:1-5, the days of Mary's purification had been completed and she could accompany Jesus and Joseph to the temple where Jesus, as the firstborn, was to be presented with sacrifices. Simeon and Anna met them, welcomed Jesus, and recognized him to be the fulfillment of God's promises. This must have been a very public event (see Luke 2:38). But it was also a very sad event: verse 39 leads us to believe that Mary and Joseph fulfilled their ritual duties and simply went back home. Here was the Messiah coming to the temple which had been built to receive him, and it seems nobody else recognized him! It was an early indication that the temple was not ready to recognize the light of God.
  2. The second element of Jesus' childhood is captured by Luke 2:40 and 52. We catch only a glimpse of his growing years, and we can only imagine what all they must have involved. He was part of a normal family with other brothers and sisters, yet he was the incarnate Son of God. He experienced all the stages of physical and mental growth—another part of having "emptied himself." But he also "was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him" (Luke 2:40); he was obedient to his parents (Luke 2:51); and grew in "favor with God and men" (Luke 2:52). How mysterious that the second person of the Trinity should have so emptied himself that he needed all these growth stages! And yet how gratifying that he would be willing to do so.
  3. The third event takes place when Jesus is twelve years old and is captured by Luke's story in 2:41-50. We gain several very important insights here. Jesus' trip to the temple with his parents gives us a glimpse into a faithful Jewish family who followed the pattern of pilgrimages, and Jesus' growth had progressed to a point where he could join them. But there are two puzzling mysteries here. This twelve-year-old boy is confounding the teachers with his amazing understanding! But he also puzzles his mother with his answer to her, giving her information that seemed more than she was ready to handle.

In each of these events we can see into the amazing process of God's only Son in human flesh bringing the knowledge and light of God into our world in a way that our human minds can hardly imagine.

Music Notes:
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)
WOV With One Voice (Augsburg Fortress)
Music Level Key: E = Easy, M = Medium, D = Difficult

  1. As you read through this service you will notice many alternative hymn selections taken from Sing! A New Creation. These suggestions reflect the growing awareness of our tradition to the season of Epiphany. When this service was originally designed in 1995, Sing! was not in existence. As a community of faith, we need to acquaint ourselves with these new and focused songs on the epiphany of our Lord.
  2. The prelude music on the tune "Wie Schön Leuchtet" can be found in the following sources:
    - A Suite Concertato on "O Morning Star, How Fair and Bright" composed for organ by Walter LK. Pelz and published by Morningstar MSM-10-201 [1990] (M-D).
    - Still More Carols for Piano, a piano collection by John Carter published by Hope 8175 [2002] (E-M)
  3. The song "Los magos que llegaron a Belén/The Magi Went to Bethl'hem Long Ago" can be sung by congregation or by an ensemble or choir. If your congregation is not familiar with this song, they will probably need some assistance. This song is also arranged for unison choir by Helen Kemp under the title "See the Glowing Star," published by Choristers Guild CGA-629 [1993] (E).
  4. The offertory music based on "Tú has venido a la orilla/You Have Come Down to the Lakeshore" is arranged by Robert Buckley Farlee in Many and Great and published by Augsburg 11-11033 [2000] (E).
  5. The anthem "Arise, Shine, for Your Light Is Come" by Davis Folkerts was originally published by CRC Publications 241-198-00 [1990]. These publications now are released by Selah. If you are unable to obtain copies, consider substituting PsH 198, a hymn setting of the same song. We would encourage you to use a soloist, ensemble, or choir on the stanzas and have the congregation join them on the refrain if you use the hymnal setting.
  6. Alternative harmonizations for "As with Gladness, Men of Old" can be found in Walter L. Pelz's "As with Gladness Men of Old," published by Concordia 97-5873 [1985]
  7. The postlude based on the closing hymn can be found in God with Us,  an organ collection by Wayne L. Wold, published by Augsburg 11-10975 [1999] (E).

Liturgy Notes:

  1. This service is slightly modified from a hymn festival for Epiphany written by Charlotte Larsen and Donald Postema for a joint festival of the Ann Arbor Christian Reformed Church and Ann Arbor Campus Chapel. We are grateful for their work in making it available to the churches. It is taken from Reformed Worship 41, © 1996, CRC Publications, Grand Rapids, MI 49560. 1-800-333-8300. Used with permission.
  2. This is a worship service with many elements and multiple Scripture readings. You will need to consider its length and perhaps be selective in how much of it you include.
  3. To create the greatest integration of the word-and-song-response in this service we encourage you not to announce any of the items, but to let them flow naturally without interruption.
  4. We encourage you to consider using multiple lay readers for the Scripture passages. 
  5. Charlotte Larsen reports that for the candle lighting, the two pastors who participated lit their candles from the Christ candle, and then each proceeded down one of the aisles. The growing light will gradually fill the sanctuary during the singing of "Arise, Shine, for Your Light Is Come."