As churches celebrate Jesus’ birth in the flesh and transition into the following parts of the Church Year, there are several things to consider when maintaining the sanctuary. At what point does the nativity scene get put away? What other decorations are appropriate? When do the paraments change color? Here are some tips to help your altar guild during the season of Epiphany.
Parament Changes during the Epiphany Season
The Epiphany season begins with white paraments for both Epiphany Day and the Baptism of Our Lord. The paraments turn to green beginning with the Second Sunday after the Epiphany (January 14) and continuing through the Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany (February 4). The season of Epiphany ends with the Transfiguration of Our Lord (February 11), at which point the paraments change back to white.
Since this is a season with many parament changes, you may wish to keep a copy of Worship Planning Book in the altar guild’s preparation area or share with those people the link to Lutheran Calendar, which color codes each Sunday.
Candles & Other Adornments
Amidst the changing of the seasons, there are many unique customs that congregations may abide by. Some congregations choose to hang a star in the sanctuary during the entire season of Epiphany. Other congregations have special practices for observing the Baptism of Our Lord, such as placing the baptismal font in a new location or hanging special banners in remembrance of each member’s Baptism.
The Altar Guild Manual: Lutheran Service Book Edition explains these varied Epiphany customs as follows:
The Christmas greenery and decorations may be left up for the service on the Feast of the Epiphany but should be removed before the Baptism of Our Lord. The so-called “Moravian star,” recalling the star that led the Wise Men to the Infant in Bethlehem, may be used as an appropriate additional appointment for the Epiphany service. On the First Sunday after the Epiphany, the Baptism of Our Lord, the church’s baptismal font may be filled with water for the faithful to dip their finger in and cross themselves as a reminder of their own Baptisms. The Baptism of Our Lord was the first of His deeds to “fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15) and sanctify the waters of our Baptism. The usage of the full set of candles (eucharistic lights and floor candelabra) may continue throughout the Epiphany season as a reminder of the revelation of Christ, “the Light of the world” (John 8:12). (p. 79)
Because the season of Epiphany spans so many weeks, there are numerous special music selections and hymns that may be used throughout the season. Cathy Moklebust’s handbell arrangement of “O Morning Star, How Fair and Bright” is available for 2–3 octave and 3–5 octave choirs and makes a great selection for Epiphany Day. Organ selections for the Epiphany season include arrangements of “O Splendor of God’s Glory Bright” and “Jesus Has Come and Brings Pleasure Eternal,” both from Kevin Hildebrand’s For Manuals Only, Set 4.
For more special music ideas, be sure to explore our playlist below of music for the Epiphany Season.
Looking for more tips and resources to assist your altar guild? The Altar Guild Manual: Lutheran Service Book Edition includes concise summaries of duties and changes for each season of the Church Year.
Quotation from The Altar Guild Manual, page 79 © 1996, 2008 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.