Jesus passes through childhood in the blink of an eye this lectionary cycle, with only one Sunday in the season of Christmas before we enter Epiphany. There are so many occasions to mark, and not enough Sundays in which to do so! While the brief attention given to Jesus’ infancy and childhood is faithful to the Gospel accounts, there are many stories that people are expecting to hear every year that may be missed this time around.
Last week might have been Christmas 1, or Name of Jesus, or New Year’s Day, or honoring the Holy Innocents who died in place of Jesus. This week might be Epiphany or Baptism of Our Lord, or a chance to squeeze in one of the occasions that you had to skip last week. The Narrative Lectionary includes Luke’s account of Jesus’ baptism, with a long description of John’s ministry, but without him explicitly being the one to baptize Jesus. What are you doing this Sunday? Which stories or celebrations are important to your community? To your personal theology?
If you are preaching on Epiphany this Sunday, I encourage you to choose your words carefully. This week one of our musicians asked why we’re not singing “We Three Kings.” My answer is that we don’t know how many of them there were, and we do know that they were not kings. While the song is familiar to many, it perpetuates a traditional story that is only one interpretation of the biblical account of the Epiphany… and people need to hear more than just this one interpretation. Might there have been women among the magi? What if there were two wise ones, or twelve? Instead of using royal imagery for them, consider what a different impression the story might make if we described the magi as scientists. (Or, for a more humorous interpretation, see the below photo from an irreverent game I received as a Christmas gift this year, Santa v. Jesus 🙂 )
If you are celebrating Baptism of Our Lord, there are many details to address and many questions that naturally arise. Why would Jesus need to receive a baptism of repentance? Could Jesus alone see the heavens opened and hear the voice of God, or did everyone see and hear God’s presence? What was the relationship between John and Jesus – did they know each other well before this encounter? And why does any of this matter for our faith life today? If you happen to have a baptism during worship today, perhaps that ritual can do the preaching for you – and if not, you’ll get to anticipate the questions and discover the answers as you prepare your sermon!
Additional resources can be found at TextWeek, or Vanderbilt’s lectionary resource page, or Working Preacher. If you are interested in doing Epiphany “star words” with your congregation this year, you can learn more at Marci Auld Glass’s blog. Jan Richardson’s Women’s Christmas Retreat might also be helpful either in your worship preparations or your personal spiritual journey.
Please share your ideas below, ask questions, and point us towards other places where you have found inspiration! I have tea and wine to share – join the party and join the conversation!
canoeistpastor is Katya Ouchakof, co-pastor at Lake Edge Lutheran Church in Madison, WI. She is a certified canoeing instructor, occasional hospital chaplain, aunt to the best kids in the world, and a devout Star Wars fan. Katya is a contributor to There’s a Woman in the Pulpit, and blogs periodically at Provocative Proclamation.
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