Many New Year blessings to you! Where do you find yourself on this second Sunday of Christmas? This is such a short liturgical season, and attendance is often quite low as folks are spending time with their families to celebrate the holidays. But there are so many important Biblical stories at this time of the year! Which passages will you share with your congregation this weekend?

B_EpiphanyoftheLord-medium
Scary, Scary Night, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. [retrieved February 3, 2015].
Some folks are observing Epiphany in advance of the Jan 6 date. A celebration of the arrival of the magi and their gifts to the child Jesus, guided by a star. The beginning of the season of Light. A time to celebrate the power of God breaking in to our human darkness. The images of light and dark in Epiphany lend themselves to an honest discussion about race, which is important to address in current American society. Celebrating the season of light in the Southern Hemisphere while the days are actually getting shorter could inspire some interesting conversations.

The Narrative Lectionary brings us to the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. He is teaching in the synagogue, performing healings, and casting out unclean spirits. This passage includes the healing of Simon Peter’s mother-in-law, complete with the perplexing bit about how the first thing she does upon being healed is get up and begin to serve them. Discussion on Mark’s collection of stories began on this page earlier this week.

The Gospel reading from the Revised Common Lectionary is from John 1, one of the texts also assigned for Christmas Day. Depending on your selection of readings, the Old Testament lessons may continue to celebrate the divine Word, personified as Lady Wisdom (Sirach 24 and Wisdom of Solomon 10), or celebrate the God who rescues people from exile and turns their mourning into dancing (Jeremiah 31 and Psalm 147). mg1UmvUThe Ephesians reading mentions our adoption into God’s family, which could tie in nicely to the Christmas theme of Joseph as adoptive father to Jesus. This page has some more discussion and ideas.

Perhaps you’re celebrating the naming of Jesus, proclaiming the story of boy Jesus in the Temple, brainstorming congregational New Year’s resolutions, or something else altogether! Whatever your topic, whatever your level of preparation, welcome to the party. Pull up a chair, grab a snack, and join the conversation!

 

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60 thoughts on “11th Hour Preacher Party: Christmas – Epiphany Edition

  1. I just finished a very late dinner of leftover baked macaroni and cheese… there’s still some left, if anyone is interested 🙂 My congregation will be celebrating Epiphany on Sunday, but my colleague is preaching so all I have to prepare are the prayers. Guess I’d better get to it!

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  2. Well, I’m hoping to receive inspiration as I sleep for my 2nd to last sermon at my church. It’s possible I may focus on ‘the beginning’ of Jesus ministry, creation and/or the churches new beginning without me. Not sure what I’ll say, just trying to leave them in a good place. Then the 10th will be my goodbye sermon. I’m moving further north to return to full time hospice chaplaincy. I start feb 1. Wish me luck and blessings.

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    1. Blessings to you, Tina, in finding ways to end well at your congregation and begin well in a new setting. It sounds like a focus on the beginning of Jesus’ ministry could be a good connection – it’s a new year, new challenges, new opportunities for ministry, and new people with whom to partner in ministry! Hoping the Holy Spirit speaks to you as you sleep.

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  3. Epiphany for me. And we will be giving out STARwords for the third year – that’s been a real inspiration for many folks. Also New Year Communion which has again become a tradition in my little country charge in the Scottish Borders.
    I’m going to include a reading of the poem ‘the Gate of the Year’ which was quoted in last week’s email. It concentrates the mind on where light comes from, even when we are fearful and feel we walk in the dark… hope the various random threads I have running through my thoughts will come together…

    Like most folks, my fridge is still groaning with left overs… Some pretty good broth on the stove. Lots of bits of cheese which need eating up…. And some very delicious rich Christmas cake – help yourselves!

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    1. It sounds like you’ve got a good plan for worship tomorrow! It’s nice to hear about a congregation being open to creating new traditions, as yours has done. Thanks for sharing your leftovers, and I hope that the rest of the details come together quickly for you!

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    2. The gate of the year is one of my favorite poems! I have quoted it in sermons in the past, and find it an absolute staple for my own spirit when it feels like life is closing in on me. Love the use of star words, too.

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  4. I had hoped to finish before dinner today, but my husband has had a sore back for a few days, and today he can barely move. once again i ma starting at 8.00 pm on Saturday evening to wrote tomorrows sermon.
    working with the Magi reading, but extending it to verse 18, to include the killing of the children.
    thinking about how light uncovers things we would rather stay hidden, and how do we respond to Jesus – is the light and life offered by Jesus a joy or a challenge we fight against.

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    1. Glad you got things finished, Pearl. I hope that your husband feels better soon – a year ago I was stuck in bed with back problems, so I feel his pain! I’ll read through your sermon in a bit, but I’m sure it’s wonderful, as usual.

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      1. What a compelling set of comparisons – especially the piece about what young children learn in kindergarten, or when they have nothing remotely like kindergarten in their lives. Let us know how it went!

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  5. Going with Epiphany in advance and the strangers, the foreigners, who follow the light…. and how God’s love is available to all, regardless of whom they are. Predictable, I know, but I need something to work as i’m still pretty new to this congregation. More meals to prepare…lots of food. Do join in.

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    1. Predictable is not bad, especially in a new setting, and sometimes the most obvious interpretations are the ones that need to be said out loud because people can forget them. Blessings on your meal preparation and on your worship preparation!

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  6. After a week off, wherein I mostly hosted family and friends around the table for meals (I have cooked and cleaned and cooked some more, all good albeit not particularly restful), now this morning I am up early to do some reading and exegesis in preparation for sermon writing. Soon I have to head over to the church for a baptismal prep and rehearsal. I think this makes the fourth year in a row that we have had a baptism on this Sunday in early January, because family is in town, and all that. So once again I will preach something about Epiphany and baptism. Not at ll sure what, however. And none of the exegetical material I’ve read has provided any inspiration. One set of old (2008) sermon notes has some interesting fodder that I may tap into. For now, I am drinking coffee and summoning up the motivation to return to work.

    Thanks for hosting canoeistpastor.

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    1. A baptism early in the year sounds like a great tradition to be building! You could jump ahead another week in the lectionary, and celebrate Baptism of Our Lord tomorrow 🙂 Hope that the preparation goes well and that the Holy Spirit brings you some great ideas for the sermon.

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  7. Well, I am excited for tomorrow, because not only am I going to do Starwords (Thank you Marci Glass!!!) I remembered we are doing communion by intinction, which is about the 3rd time for this 375 year old congregation. (right? I know–but to be fair, the New England ritual of celebrating the sacrament is also quite wonderful, even though it is formal. We all take the elements together. But I digress). I have included a children’s time (also NOT done on Communion Sundays) so it will be all be a starry sparkle.

    Oh, but I do need to finish my sermon
    I am doing Epiphany but focusing on the Isaiah passage, and what Brueggeman points out here http://www.religion-online.org/showarticle.asp?title=2103

    But right now….I am stalking the booth next to me at Panera so I can plug in my computer. I wish these people would hurry and finish breakfast (haha).
    While I stalk, can I get anybody anything? My treat….

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      1. Monica,
        i am going to have a giant star balloon, and talk about guiding stars. Then I will let children “lead” us to guiding stars in the congregation–usually I do the first one, and then it takes off.

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    1. Sounds like you’ve got a plan, just need to work our the details! I hope that Communion and the kids’ sermon and star words and everything go well. Happy writing! Oh, and I’ll take one of those delicious cinnamon-sugar bagels 🙂

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  8. We’re home working at the dining room table, which is half covered with Christmas lights and other decorations on their way back to boxes. I’m in the Narrative Lectionary and find I’m missing the gift of the magi and the Epiphany, which my congregation got early last Sunday while I was elsewhere. I didn’t realize how much of a comfortable, familiar bridge those texts were from Christmas back into work. Now I’m already a Sunday behind getting into Mark’s gospel, and realizing this one week will contain something like the equivalent of six weeks of RCL gospel lessons. Too much! We’ve got the baptism and banishing to the wilderness in the Call to Worship and Confession sequence. Somehow I’ve got to eke out a Communion meditation, most likely based on the latter part of Mark 1 without repeating in any obvious ways the things I said in January last year, when we were also in Mark. Oy.
    Meanwhile, I’ve got a cold, a lovely parting gift from all the guests we had December 20-30, making me seriously reconsider the wisdom of all my preaching sisters who tell the family to come some other time!

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    1. RCL and NL both have their joys and frustrations, don’t they? Hoping that you find a way to include those pieces that are necessary for it to be meaningful for you as the worship leader. Blessings in your preparation!

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  9. I’m at a new-to-me congregation, who didn’t call me till Monday, when I was out of town. Needless to say, this week has not been full of opportunities to work on a sermon, so they’re getting a rewrite of an old one. I’m doing Epiphany, and talking about the gifts we bring to Jesus, including Matthew 25 in there, also. I used my spouse’s office yesterday to work mostly on other things that got put off until after Christmas (ahem). But I did work through the sermon and think it’s mostly ok.

    They asked me to include a children’s time, so I’m pondering that today. The order of the service is a lot different than what I”m used to, so I need to leave some time to work through that in my head.

    The kids and I are on the 16th day of togetherness, but who’s counting? The weather is miserable, the library is closed, and we need something to do that does not involve making yet another gigantic mess. (Can you tell I’m over Christmas break? They don’t go back until Tuesday).

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    1. The joy of a new congregation is that they’ve never heard your old work before! Glad you had something to rework for this week.

      16 days is a lot of togetherness. I don’t suppose your kids could help you put something together for the kids’ sermon in worship tomorrow?

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      1. That thought occurred to me, but I don’t have an idea at all right now. I’ve done lots of looking and googling, but nothing is hitting me. It’s hard to do a children’s sermon at a church that’s not your own; it’s SUPER hard to do one with kids you’ve never met and who have never met you before. I don’t know how many of them, or how old they are, or how shy they are. Hm. Still thinking.

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        1. I agree – in my time supply preaching, I found that doing a children’s sermon was one of the most difficult pieces. Maybe you could do something generic? Sometimes I pull out things like “these are the paraments (can you say “paraments”?) and this is what color they are today, and this is why” or explaining one of the parts of worship (confession, kyrie, offering, etc). Dr Seuss always works in a pinch 🙂

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        2. Can you do something as simple as story telling the story of the Magi? You could use pieces from the Nativity and do something akin to a Godly Play story with or without “wondering” questions.

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          1. oh, that will work. I was trying to make it too complicated. I don’t know if they’ll still have the nativity set out, but I have several groups of wise guys I could take with me. Thank you!

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  10. Looking forward to introducing Star words for the first time, doing this as the all age talk with a story in the intro to the service pointing to Epiphany. A NL preacher the rest of the service is wham bang into Mark’s Gospel. Using the opportunity of Jesus willingness to engage with anyone and everyone to remind people that we should care about everyone in need not just those down the road. I have noticed one or two folks in my congregation posting stuff on social media along the lines of cutting foreign aid and using the money to help those in the UK affected by flooding. So using my connection with one are flooded this last week and the generosity of our Christmas congregations to the Christian Aid Refugee appeal to say it’s not one or the other it is both. Also using snippets from Parker Palmer’s 5 New Years Revolutions to build on this. We have a joint service tomorrow where the two churches come together….not expecting a huge turnout as so close to New Years but you never know…..

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    1. I love the phrase “New Years Revolutions,” even though I’m not familiar with them! Yes to the “it’s not one or the other it’s both” theme. I hope that your people hear the good news in your message tomorrow.

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  11. I’m doing STARwords for the second time . . . Communion and worship liturgy is in place . . . but still no sermon . . with less than 24 hours. This is my second Epiphany and I looked at last year’s sermon but it seems that I didn’t really have anything strong to say last year either. Come Holy Spirit come.
    Love the Brueggeman reflection that RevKarla posted! That could be a very good starting place.
    Fireplace is roaring and peanut soup is simmering on the stove. noshing on feta pecan dip and crackers leftover from a new year’s day party.

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    1. Peanut soup sounds delicious 🙂 With such a meaningful worship service planned, I’m sure you can get away with a shorter sermon tomorrow – maybe just a retelling of the story. Happy writing!

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  12. As usual I’m partying with you all today after a week of welcomed diversion as my plan to spend a quiet week catching up turned in to extended Christmas. My son who was scheduled to fly out on Monday stayed till Thursday thanks to the snowstorm and the cancellation of his flight. We had a blast with a movie marathon and lots of music as he had brought his guitar and loved having access to my keyboard.

    Today I’m cutting out stars and pondering the sermon on Epiphany passages from Matthew. I will be using the poem Lead Me by Steve Garnaas-Holmes from earlier this week in conjunction with the stars as a prayer for courage to follow God’s guidance. http://unfoldinglight.net/?p=3332#respond

    We also have communion in an intergenerational service, that adds up to lots of celebrating the gifts of and in honor of the divine.

    Fruitcake here and chili.

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  13. Somebody call the lectionary police! I am going with Epiphany NEXT Sunday because I really wanted to preach the John passage this year. In pondering the Word becoming flesh and Jesus being from God and from Mary, I used a writing exercise I learned over the summer – a poem format from “Where I’m From” (google it and you’ll find all kinds of templates). It gave me a fresh perspective on the incarnation, and I have decided to share it with the congregation as part of the sermon!

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    1. PS. Love your reminder of the Where I’m From efforts. I did this with a penpal from KY as part of this project. It was at least 11 or 12 years ago as I included such a poem in a book for my mom’s 80th birthday almost 11 years ago.

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  14. Yeah, Judy, I realized too late that Jesus went from birth to 12 in two days and now he’s back to toddlerhood for Epiphany. I didn’t include the Matthew (Epiphany) text, but we are doing star words, so I will need to refer to stars somehow. It’s no wonder the sermon — I should say “sermon” — is a holy mess. My microwave is clean, though!

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    1. Usually my laundry gets done before my sermon, but a clean microwave? That’s impressive! Stars as a guide can take many forms, even with modern hikers (who have dead GPS batteries) or sailors or escaping slaves – I’m sure you’ll find something that works!

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  15. I think the girls are nestled all snug in their beds. Maybe. It’s time to hunker down with this order of worship and try to figure out what I am responsible for. They have told me that they are “really flexible,” so let’s hope so!

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    1. Yes, let’s hope that “really flexible” means being able to do the liturgical splits, not just a knee-bend! Thanks for filling in while I was at today’s non-preacher-party 🙂 I’m back now and working on the prayers for tomorrow!

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  16. I have reluctantly put a bookmark in midway through a mystery novel and am trying to drag my mind back to work mode. Having been off since about 8pm Christmas Eve, with just a brief sit-in-the-back for Sunday worship capably led by two lovely women members, I’ve had a real break this time. No email, no phone calls, only a couple of texts or FB messages but none were work-related…and now I have to get back to it. I always think I should write sermons ahead of these kinds of breaks, so I’m not so rudely thrown back in on Saturday night. But who are we kidding: the run up to being out for 10 days is stressful enough without trying to add another sermon in the mix.

    So here I am, a Narrative Lectionary preacher who has decided to just read all of Mark 1, combining last week’s and this week’s assigned readings since last week was lessons and carols. For those playing along at home, that is 870 words of scripture reading. With communion too, I’m going to need only about 8 minutes of sermon. I’m trying to decide between something about “fishing for people” and something about “fans v. followers.”
    Whichever I choose, I have to talk about Peter’s mother-in-law, who is the first Deacon. 🙂 We have the deacons serving communion individually to each person because of this reading, so I need to be sure to mention it. lol.

    Okay, for real….I’m going to do something resembling work now. Maybe if I can get this 900 or so words out quickly, and then a communion liturgy, I can still get back to my book before bedtime? #foolishlyoptimistic

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    1. Welcome back from a much-needed and much-deserved break! Sounds like you could have used a couple of more days… if only Sunday didn’t insist on coming around every single week!

      I love the description of Peter’s MIL as the first deacon, and I’m guessing you could easily do a few minutes just on that! Maybe just some brief commentary on the rest of the passage, and you can get in a few more pages of your book before bedtime 🙂 Happy writing!

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  17. Now that I have done every possible thing BESIDES get a sermon written….

    I actually was on a bit of a roll this afternoon then got sidetracked by a family in need of some presence as they sit vigil. The mother is a member of my congregation who had some form of early-onset dementia, so I’ve never “met” her until sitting with her kids and husband for a good long visit this afternoon. I wish I’d been here 10 years ago… we’d have been solid co-conspirators for Jesus. Got a lot of notes for the memorial service to come, but between here and there, I’ve got Epiphany to preach. Thankfully, I can go a little short, since we’ve got communion and Start Words to do as well.

    Come Holy Spirit!

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    1. You had a day of holy preparation, it just wasn’t the kind of preparation you were expecting! Hoping that a message comes together for you soon.

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  18. Have just returned from a week with my sons and grandsons. Lots of good time with the latter, since their parents had to work all week. Had no idea of how exhausting it was, though, until I fell into a deep and long nap today upon reaching home from the airport! Lots of thoughts roiling around in my brain but nothing yet on paper. Basically about following the star (which star?)–and who/what we trust when we get lost or off track. Did not have time to put together Star Words this year..

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    1. Those initial thoughts sound great, Gloria. A true story, if it helps… Once I was driving (alone, at night) in an unfamiliar area, following printed out directions (before the era of GPS) and got lost. I knew I was going the wrong way when I looked out my windshield and saw the North Star. I was supposed to be going south! So I turned around and found my way back to the planned route. Thank goodness for the guidance of stars!

      Hooray for grandchild time, and hooray for naps! And hooray for soon-to-be-completed sermons 🙂

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