Learn more about the readings, music, and worship-service planning helps for the Epiphany of Our Lord.
Season & Preparations
The Feast of the Epiphany begins the season of Epiphany. Admittedly, Epiphany is probably the least-celebrated season for many people and congregations in the Lutheran Church. Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter receive far more attention. Yet Epiphany is a beautiful season that echoes the joys of Christ’s incarnation.
Epiphany is a season of light, of Jesus revealing who He is as the Messiah and Son of God. The manifestation of Jesus as the light of the world reveals just that, that Jesus is the light of the world, not just the light of Israel. As Magi come from the East to bring Jesus gifts and worship Him, they begin to unveil the mystery of the Gospel, that Jesus Christ and His salvation are for all people. In Gathered Guests, Timothy Maschke writes, “Epiphany is often called the Gentiles’ Christmas” (p. 294). So while the season has changed from Christmas to Epiphany, one might still properly say “Merry Christmas.”
Maschke encourages the order of Evening Prayer for a celebration of the Feast of the Epiphany because both emphasize light as well as the use of incense. If your congregation uses Evening Prayer, the Christ candle (the large white candle in the center of your Advent wreath) would make an appropriate decoration. You can put the four Advent candles away now, though. As one option, Maschke encourages a gathering in darkness where the Christ candle processes into the sanctuary and congregation members light individual candles all stemming from the light of the one Christ candle (p. 293).
While the season of Epiphany uses the color green, the feast day itself retains the color of white, which was used through the Christmas season. Some congregations have taken to retaining the nativity scene until the Feast of the Epiphany, reserving the appearance of the Magi (or Wise Men) until Epiphany.
Readings & Theme
The themes of light and revelation to the nations are present throughout the readings for today. The day’s Gospel, from Matthew 2, records the Magi visiting Jesus and bringing gifts to Him.
The Epistle, from Ephesians 3, includes themes of light and revelation as well. Verse 6 says, “This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.”
The Old Testament Reading, from Isaiah 60, likewise reflects on light and revelation. Verse 3 says, “And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.”
Hymns & Music
The hymns and music of Epiphany will focus on the theme of light. The Hymn of the Day is “O Morning Star, How Fair and Bright” (LSB 395). This classic Lutheran hymn by Philipp Nicolai is rich with imagery of light and rejoicing.
There are numerous excellent Epiphany hymns, including “Arise and Shine in Splendor” (LSB 396), “As with Gladness Men of Old” (LSB 397), and “Brightest and Best of the Stars of the Morning” (LSB 400).
Most any hymn with a theme of light is appropriate for Epiphany. Don’t overlook “Thy Strong Word” (LSB 578), which is bursting with light imagery in every stanza.
Additional Resources for Worship & Study
Several resources can help you teach more about the Feast of the Epiphany. Many Christmas children’s books include the visit of the Magi, while some have a more focused theme on Epiphany, including the Arch Book Star of Wonder or another children’s book The Visit of the Wise Men.
Looking for additional information on planning for Epiphany? Download our planning sheet to help you get started!
Quotation from Gathered Guests by Timothy H. Maschke, copyright © 2003, 2009 Timothy H. Maschke. Published by Concordia Publishing House. Used by permission.
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.