Epiphany Sunday — Planning Notes

Year A (January 1, 2017) | REVEAL
by Taylor Burton-Edwards

Order of Worship Preaching Hymns Music Notes Planning Prayers/Resources

In the Series

Today marks the conclusion of the Advent-Christmas series. Each series’ conclusion needs to do two things: (1) deliver in a strong way on the whole series promise, and (2) make a segue and offer a preview of the upcoming series.

This flow of this series has been Watch, Turn, See, Dream, Peace, Word, and Reveal. We started in Advent with anticipation of a revelation to come. Today, we celebrate what has been revealed in the first coming of Jesus Christ and the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit through and beyond Christ’s body, the church. We have moved from fearful hope, through repentance, toward experiencing the world and God’s hope for the world in new ways. While the incarnation also unleashes threat into the world, threat against the continuing hegemony of entrenched powers that resist the saving way and work of God, it also unleashes a hope and celebration so massive that the universe itself declares Christ’s birth in ways that move Zoroastrian astrologers to journey hundreds of miles across the Arabian desert to pay him homage. 

The upcoming series (Season after Epiphany) supports the church in a season of evangelism, inviting people to “come and see” what Jesus and his call to discipleship are about  and to be prepared more fully to live as disciples through the season of Lent that follows.


Because this year’s celebration of Epiphany falls during the Christmas holidays, and right after New Year’s Eve, attendance at worship may be hard to predict today. But that is no reason not to celebrate the revelation of God in Jesus Christ to the wider world, even acknowledged by the universe, today. Indeed, today’s gospel reading makes for a great New Year’s kickoff.

Keep in mind that the effective kickoff for newcomers for your next series may be in two weeks rather than next week (Baptism of the Lord). Next week’s celebration may be appropriately primarily focused on people who are in a position to reaffirm the baptismal covenant as well, perhaps, as the Wesley covenant, rather than on newcomers being invited to come and see what discipleship to Jesus among you may be all about.

Procession to the Crèche with the Wise Men

In the order of Scriptures we use for the Christmas season, we tell the story of the shepherds on Christmas Eve and the story of the coming of the magi on Epiphany. If your congregation has a crèche (nativity scene), today would be a good day for people dressed as wise men (possibly children) to bring magi figurines to the crèche and present them there. This may be offered at the beginning of the service, accompanied by the singing of “We Three Kings” (if desired) or done with singing or in reverent silence as an introduction to the reading of the gospel.

DOWNLOAD the full Advent 2016 Worship Series [PDF]

Reading Notes

NRSV texts, artwork, and Revised Common Lectionary Prayers for this service at the Vanderbilt Divinity Library.)
Leccionario en Español, Leccionario Común Revisado: Consulta Sobre Textos Comunes.
Lectionnaire en français, Le Lectionnaire Œcuménique Révisé
Lecionário em português, Lecionário comum revisado

Isaiah 60:1-6. Isaiah prophesies to a people just returning from exile that the day would come when all nations would stream to their light, and the wealth of the nations would come to them.

Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14 (UMH 795). In praise of the righteous king who would receive tribute from all nations -- Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14 (UMH 795), with Response 1. If you do not sing this Psalm, plan to include all the verses.

Ephesians 3:1-12. Paul’s imprisonments have enabled the Gentiles and their leaders to know the mystery and receive an invitation to become fellow heirs in Christ Jesus.

Matthew 2:1-12.  Magi see a sign in the heavens leading them to inquire and bring gifts for the birth of a new king.  They later cooperate with God to subvert Herod's plan to destroy the king they came to seek.

Calendar Notes


Christmas Season ends with the celebration of Epiphany, the “appearing” or “revelation” of the newborn Messiah. We observed his birth at Bethlehem on Christmas Eve. We contemplated the mystery of the Word made flesh and dwelling among us on Christmas Day. On this day we join the church’s wonder as the very constellations reveal the birth of Messiah, and the powers of this world are revealed for their self-preservation and violent resistance to the saving work of God for all.

Next week, a new season begins, the Season after Epiphany. Perhaps by next Sunday most folks will have concluded their vacation time and be more able and likely to attend worship again. So launch your new Season after Epiphany series well!

The theme for this season historically and in the series we have provided is evangelism— “The Great Invitation.”

Until then, keep up your “pre-evangelism” by inviting as many as you can to join you in hearing again the good news of God’s kingdom and the call of Jesus to become his disciples, those who learn how to live fully in God’s kingdom come!

January 2017
January 1      Epiphany Sunday  / New Year’s Day
January 8      Baptism of the Lord
January 11    Human Trafficking Awareness Day
January 15    Human Relations Day  (2017 resources coming soon)
January 16    The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (USA)
January 18-25 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity
January 25    Ecumenical Sunday

All Month      Black History Month (USA)
February 2     Feast of the Presentation/Candlemas. See BOW 316
February 12   Scouting Ministries Sunday (preferred date since not during Lent)
February 20   Presidents Day (USA)
February 26   Transfiguration of the Lord

March 1        Ash Wednesday   
                     New Series Begins: Living Our Baptismal Calling 
March 12      Daylight Saving Time Begins (USA)
March 26      UMCOR Sunday (formerly One Great Hour of Sharing)

Additional Resources

2016 Planning Helps for New Year's Day/Holy Name

2016 Planning Helps for Epiphany Sunday

Ecumenical Prayer Cycle: Stateless People and Migrants, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories

Categories: Epiphany, Advent Planning, Epiphany, Lectionary, Year A (2016), REVEAL - January 1, 2017, Advent 2016