Learn more about the readings, music, and worship-service planning helps for the First Sunday after Christmas.
Season & Preparations
Merry Christmas! Indeed, it is still Christmas. While retail stores have already put all their Christmas decorations and candy on clearance, the Church continues its celebration of Christmas. Since it is still Christmas, the decorations for the First Sunday after Christmas remain the same as Christmas Day. White remains the color of the paraments. The Advent wreath may remain with all five candles lit. The Christmas tree and nativity set can stay if you have such decorations. One practical consideration you may have regarding decorations is the giving away of any poinsettia plants that may be in the sanctuary.
Your congregation may also meet for New Year’s Eve. That shouldn’t be a worry with regard to any decorations. If your congregation chooses not to meet for New Year’s Eve, the New Year’s Eve readings may be used instead on the First Sunday after Christmas.
Readings & Theme
The theme for Christmas 1 focuses on Jesus revealing Himself to the nations, as well as already beginning to fulfill the Law as Israel could not.
The Gospel for today, from Luke 2, picks up where Christmas left off. Jesus is presented at the temple. (Properly speaking, the Purification of Mary and the Presentation of Our Lord is a feast day celebrated on February 2, forty days after Jesus’ birth. Many congregations will celebrate this feast day when it falls on a Sunday, but that is not the case in 2018.) In the temple, the holy family meets a man named Simeon, who takes Jesus in his arms and blesses God with the words we now sing so often in the Nunc Dimittis. Likewise, a widow named Anna is in the temple, and she speaks of Jesus to all who are awaiting the redemption of Israel.
Even in His earliest infant days, Jesus fulfills the Law of the Lord perfectly, being presented and purified at the temple. Paul picks up on this in the Epistle, from Galatians 4, writing that Jesus was born under the Law to redeem those under the Law. It is by this that we receive adoption as sons and heirs.
The Old Testament Reading, from Isaiah 61 and 62, reflects Simeon’s words in Luke 2. Jesus comes as a light to the nations, to the Gentiles. And I would argue that Psalm 111 is a psalm that Anna would have most appropriately prayed and proclaimed, especially verse 9: “He sent redemption to His people; He has commanded His covenant forever. Holy and awesome is His name!”
Hymns & Music
The Hymn of the Day is “Let All Together Praise Our God” (LSB 389), a Reformation-era hymn by Nicolaus Herman. The first two lines of the final stanza evoke the adoration of Simeon and Anna, which we reflect as we worship Jesus: “Your grace in lowliness revealed, Lord Jesus, we adore.”
Consider also using Nunc Dimittis hymns such as “Lord, Bid Your Servant Go in Peace” (LSB 937) or “In Peace and Joy I Now Depart” (LSB 938). “In His Temple Now Behold Him” (LSB 519) is the Hymn of the Day for the Purification of Mary and the Presentation of Our Lord, so it would also be appropriate on the First Sunday after Christmas.
You can easily round out your hymn selections with Christmas songs that are not staples for your congregation. I am personally a fan of “See amid the Winter’s Snow” (LSB 373). The final line of the refrain fits the Gospel for the day well: “Sing through all Jerusalem: ‘Christ is born in Bethlehem!’”
“Of the Father’s Love Begotten” (LSB 384) is also a fitting choice. Stanza 3 fits beautifully for today:
This is He whom seers in old time
Chanted of with one accord,
Whom the voices of the prophets
Promised in their faithful word.
Now He shines, the long-expected;
Let creation praise its Lord
Evermore and evermore.
Additional Resources for Worship & Study
As you might guess, there are numerous Christmas resources available from CPH. Explore dozens of children’s books that help teach your children or grandchildren the Christmas story. In particular for this week, consider the flip book Jesus’ Birth and the Arch Book Baby Jesus Visits the Temple.
Looking for additional information on planning for Christmas 1? Download our planning sheet to help you get started!
Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Quotation from LSB 389 copyright © 1969 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.