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Nations Will Come to Your Light

Epiphany Service

The overall structure of the service follows that used by Church of the Servant Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The service makes use of resources from the ancient church, the Reformation, and current liturgical resources, as well as newly written material—a great testimony to the continuity of the faith of the church through all ages. Some churches might find the amount of responsive reading problematic; but taking one Sunday to worship in a less familiar manner might be a powerful experience. Sometimes when we look at things in a new way, what is hidden is made manifest. However, for some it may be wisest to use one or two of the litanies suggested here within your church’s usual pattern of worship. Note too that in this service the announcements are located at the very end—a different approach than that found in the service on page 40 but equally effective.

—JB

Opening

Opening Hymn: “God Himself Is with Us” (st. 1) PsH 244, TH 382

Readings from Isaiah 6 and 60
Reader 1: In the year that King Uzziah died, Isaiah saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted and the train of his robe filled the temple.

Reader 2: Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying.

Reader 1: And they were calling to one another: Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty.

Women: [louder] Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty.

Men: [yet louder] Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty.

Reader 2: The whole earth is full of his glory. At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.

Reader 1: Let us hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

Readers 1 and 2: Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you,

Women: See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples,

Men: But the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you.

All: Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.

Reader 1: Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the lands! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into God’s presence with singing.

Reader 2: For the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. Alelluia. And that light has shined on the nations, who live in the shadow of death.

Song of Praise: “God Himself Is with Us” (st. 2-3)

Call to Worship
Leader: On January 6, the twelfth day of Christmas, Christians have traditionally celebrated the feast of the Epiphany of our Lord. In this celebration, among our oldest feasts, we recall Christ’s baptism, hear of the acts of power he did among us, and remember that in fulfilling the ancient prophesies, he brought new light into the world. Let us continue to respond to him with the saints of old by praising him together, as one united body.  

Sung Prayer: “How Bright Appears the Morning Star” PH 69, PsH 357, TH 515

He became like us that we might receive him. In form he was considered like me, that I might put him on.
And I trembled not when I saw him; because he was gracious to me.
Like my nature he became that I might understand him, and like my form, that I might not turn away from him.
He allowed him to appear to us who were his own, in order that we might recognize him that made us, and not think that we came into being ourselves.
Grace and peace to you from God who made us and from our savior Jesus Christ.

—adapted from a poem found in a set of ancient documents called the Odes
(Merja Merras, The Origins of the Celebration of the Christian Feast of Epiphany,
Joensu, Finland: Joensu University Press, 1995, p. 129)

Confession and Assurance (from Psalm 139)

Lord, you have searched me and you know me, you know when I stand and when I sit. You read my thoughts from far away.
Where can I go to escape your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I ask the darkness to cover me and the light to become night around me, even darkness will not be dark to you, for it is light to you, and the night would shine like the day.
Let us draw near to God to confess our sins.
God of grace, you have given us Jesus, the light of the world, but we choose darkness and cling to the sins that hide the brightness of your love. Immersed in ourselves, we have not risen to new life. Baptize us with your Holy Spirit, that, forgiven and renewed, we may preach your Word to the nations and tell of your glory shining in the face of Jesus Christ, our Lord and our Light forever. Amen.
Hear the good news: In the name of the triune God I declare that, as far as the east is from the west, so far does God remove our transgressions from us.
Thanks be to God! Our sins are forgiven.
As bearers of the good news, let us share our joy with one another, saying: “The peace of the Lord be always with you.”

Proclamation

Prayer of Illumination
O Lord our God, you are a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. Give us grace to receive the truth of your Word in faith and love, that we may be obedient to your will and live always for your glory to spread the light of your Epiphany. Amen.

Scripture Readings
Matthew 2:1-12
Ephesians 3:2-12

Children’s Processional
[Here the children leave for their own church school while the congregation sings “We Have Come at Christ’s Own Bidding,” SNC 126.]

Sermon

Response

Song of Application: “Bring Forth the Kingdom” SNC 123

Confession of Faith: The Nicene Creed

Intercessory Prayer
God has called us out of darkness into the glorious light of the Son. Let us therefore pray for those who do not yet know the light and for all those in need of our prayers, responding with “Lord, hear our prayer.”
For the church and its ministry to the world, and for all those who bring the gospel of Jesus Christ to the nations, let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, hear our prayer. [silence]
For the nations of the world and their leaders,
for all those in authority [especially . . .]
and for an end to war and oppression,
let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, hear our prayer. [silence]
For those who have not heard the good news of salvation,
for those who have heard but have not believed,
and for those who have forsaken their faith,
let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, hear our prayer. [silence]
For those who are lonely and destitute,
for victims of injustice and discrimination,
for those who are unloved and forgotten,
let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, hear our prayer. [silence]
For those who are sick in body, mind, and spirit,
for those who are hungry and homeless,
for those who are dying or bereaved,
and for all those in need of our prayers [especially. . .]
Lord, hear our prayer. [silence]
For those who have gone before us and are now at rest [especially . . . ] we give thanks to the Lord.
And for all the saints on earth who surround us in a great fellowship of love, let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, hear our prayer. [silence]
Loving God, hear the prayers of your faithful people and guide our thoughts and actions, so that your will may be done and your name be glorified through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

—From Intercessions for the Christian People: Prayers of the People for Cycles A, B, and C of the Roman, Episcopal, and Lutheran Lectionaries. Edited by Gail Ramshaw. © 1988, Pueblo Publishing Co., Inc.; © 1990, The Order of St. Benedict, Inc.: The Liturgical Press, p. 81 alt.

Psalm of Faith: Psalm 72
The Lord is our light and our salvation; all that he does is good.
He defends the afflicted among the prophets and saves the children of the needy; he crushes the oppressor.
He will endure as long as the sun, as long as the moon, through all generations. He will be like rain falling on a mown field, like showers watering the earth.
In his days the righteous will flourish; prosperity will abound till the moon is no more. He will rule from sea to sea and from the river to the end of the earth.
All kings will bow down to him and all nations will serve him. For he will deliver the needy who cry out; the afflicted who have no one to help.
He will take pity on the weak and the needy and save the needy from death. He will rescue them from oppression and violence, for precious is their blood in his sight.
Long may he live! May gold from Sheba be given him. May people ever pray for him and bless him all day long. May his name endure forever; may it continue as long as the sun. All nations will be blessed through him, and they will call him blessed.
Praise be to the Lord God, the God of Israel, who alone does marvelous deeds. Praise be to his glorious name forever; may the whole earth be filled with his glory. Amen and Amen.

The Lord’s Supper

[For a liturgy specific to Epiphany see The Worship Sourcebook, F.8, p. 512, available at www.faithaliveresources.org.]

Dismissal

Brothers and sisters in Christ, since the Lord has fed us at this table, let us now depart with thanksgiving.
O Lord, let your servants depart in peace, according to your word. For our eyes have seen your salvation, a light to reveal to the earth.

Doxology: “Of the Father’s Love Begotten” CH 240, PH 309, PsH 342, TH 162, WR 181

[After the Dismissal a brief time is given for making those announcements that affect the whole community and body of the church.]