Our calendars fill with special days. We circle them on our datebook or diary. We set annual reminders on our cell phones. We want to remember birthdays and anniversaries. We love to celebrate New Year’s and Valentine’s, Martin Luther King Jr. and Canada Day, Fourth of July and Thanksgiving. Or maybe our birth country taught us to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, May Day, or Boxing Day.
Christians famously celebrate Christmas and Easter. But those who embrace the liturgical year are invited to enter a particular rhythm of sacred time, a rich calendar of holy days that includes Epiphany and Good Friday, the Transfiguration and Trinity Sunday, Pentecost and Christ the King.
The season of Epiphany is less familiar than other church seasons. Many congregations celebrate Advent, something inside us wants to prepare for Christmas. And some traverse the season of Lent—the legacy of fasting and Fish on Fridays still echoes in mainstream culture. But Epiphany?
Often in worship at Granite Springs, you’ll hear us use a sentence or two to help explain a liturgical season or why we do something. We call these “worship frames” because they help frame what follows. If you’re new to the idea of the liturgical year, or even if you’re overly familiar with it, it can be helpful to have some “framing” phrases in mind as we engage with it – it’s a simple way to remember deep truths about a season and enter into them more deeply. Here are a few that we’ve found helpful:
In the season of Epiphany, we celebrate and remember Jesus as the light. We explore what he does and what he says. With the Magi who followed the star, we remember Jesus is the light of the world.
It’s simple, I know, but we’ve found a concise frame can help us more deeply understand a reading, a song, or a call to confession. Each season of the church year needs reinforcement because sometimes it is a completely new idea to many of us. Consider another frame:
For generations, after celebrating the twelve days of Christmas, followers of Jesus spend time considering Jesus’ life. It’s a season the church throughout the world calls “Epiphany.” It starts with two events: the Magi visiting baby Jesus: representing the entire world coming to Jesus the light. And Jesus’ baptism: when he hears his father say, “This is my son whom I love, listen to him.”
That frame aims to simply and elegantly introduce the idea to spiritual and liturgical novices. Here’s another frame, inspired by the great preacher Fred Craddock. It, too, is very simple, but its simplicity may be just what a particular service needs:
During Epiphany, the whisper in Bethlehem becomes a shout heard round the world.
Here is a frame we used last year:
We are in the season of the year the church calls, Epiphany. In Epiphany, we celebrate and remember Jesus as “the light.” We reflect on his life and teaching, his healing and mission. And we learn that his light begins with us, in our lives and homes, and then spreads throughout the world.
Sometimes we may use this to introduce Epiphany in a frame that includes an offering:
In this season of Epiphany we remember the Magi who crossed cultural, ethnic, and religious boundaries to worship Jesus as king. In the spirit of the Magi, we now offer our own gifts to the newborn king.
Epiphany might not be on every person’s calendar. It is far less known than Easter and Christmas. But perhaps some simple frames can enable us as a church to more deeply engage with this season and make it a more regular rhythm in our everyday lives.
Here are a couple of practices to try this week to help connect with the season of Epiphany:
- What if for the next week you reflected on a different way to “frame” Epiphany each day? Write one out, and maybe even send it to Pastor Matt or Pastor Kevin.
- Reflect on how that helps open your experience of Jesus in this season.
Read more about worship frames here: https://worship.calvin.edu/resources/resource-library/kevin-adams-on-framing-words-for-missional-worship
Note: This blog post first appeared, in a slightly different form, on the website Reformed worship. https://www.reformedworship.org/blog/framing-epiphany-worship-planning