The focus of this Sunday service depends on what else went on in the life of the church. Was the covenant the focus of a watchnight service? Or is that the center of this day? Do we look ahead to Epiphany, which takes place on the sixth of January, or do we leave it for next week? Or do we realize that Sunday, January 1, will be a small crowd and maybe just continue with a New Year’s observance and talk about resolutions? Or do you somehow blend them all together? Whew, lots of deciding to do here. Isn’t there a clear and definitive requirement for this day?
Well, no there isn’t. Tradition makes this Epiphany Sunday, one of the great festivals of the church usually observed on the Sunday before the actual Epiphany date, unless you happen to be in the liturgical tradition of holding midweek services for Epiphany.
On the other hand, if this day is given to Epiphany and last week was Christmas day, then there is no Christmas season (or Christmastide) this year. So, should we bring out the Christmas songs for one more week and bask in that glow? This is just confusing you more, isn’t it?
As a hint toward one resolution, our next worship series is titled “Glimpses of the Kin-dom” and begins on January 8 with the Baptism of Jesus. Perhaps leaning into Epiphany this week wouldn’t be a bad choice. And Epiphany and the Wesley Covenant Prayer can work together if that wasn’t used on New Year’s Eve.
In this Christmas series of sorts, “God of the Dark and the Light,” we have acknowledged the presence of God even in the darkness. On Epiphany, we embrace the light that is the Christ, but not as a denial of the God who dwells in the dark. Instead, it could be an awareness of the journey that continues, sometimes in certainty and sometimes in doubt, sometimes in clarity and sometimes in confusion. We make our declaration, like the prayer says, that when we have everything and when we have nothing, when we are of use and when we are laid aside, we are still committed to God, we are still dedicated to Christ. We follow Christ when we can see him clearly and when we have lost sight of him. Still we follow.
So, let us lift up the name of Jesus today; let us make our pledge and follow his star. Let us be about the one who guides us, who finds us even when we are lost and gives us direction and hope. Let our worship be full of songs of praise of the name of Jesus, and let our prayers be prayers of commitment to follow.
How will you give the community the opportunity to make their covenant visible? Do we come forward for an altar call as we make this prayer? Do we write a commitment on a card and bring it forward to be prayed over or posted on a wall of covenant? Do we carry a sign of the covenant with us, a thread or a ribbon that speaks of our commitment to Christ, a wallet or purse card with the words of the covenant prayer on it or a reminder phrase or two? What can I do so that when I leave I remember that I am committed to being made a disciple of Jesus Christ? How does worship continue when I leave this place? Because continue it must, especially this day.
Rev. Dr. Derek Weber, Director of Preaching Ministries, served churches in Indiana and Arkansas and the British Methodist Church. His PhD is from University of Edinburgh in preaching and media. He has taught preaching in seminary and conference settings for more than 20 years.