The Epiphany of the Lord is a feast day that celebrates the revelation of God as a human being in Jesus Christ. It is observed on January 6 and marks the official end of the Christmas season.
In the West, this feast day is most often associated with the visitation of the magi and their bringing of gifts to the Christ child. In the East, it connects to the baptism of Jesus and the first miracle of water being turned into wine. In some cultures, it is known as “women’s Christmas,” where women enjoy a day of rest after the bustle and hospitality of the Christmas season.
Epiphany means several things: a gift is received; the gift must be shared. Jesus appears to be suggesting a rhythm, or a balance to our lives. We go inward to be with God, to receive; we go out in the world to share what we have been given – still with God. We are called to balance the pouring out of our love with the resting in God. We are called to heal by just showing up, by laying-on-hands, and by sharing what we have. This good news, which was for the few people who heard it up close and personal is ours because they reached out and shared it. It will belong to those who have not yet heard (if we accept our call to share the story) by how we live out our lives and as St. Francis said “with words if necessary.”
Chalking the Doors: An Epiphany Family Celebration
On or before the Epiphany, January 6, family and friends (C for “community”) gather at the main entrances to homes or apartments and ask God’s blessing on their dwellings and on all who live or visit there.
Leadership may be shared with a change of voice at each Leader’s part (L).
L: Peace be to this house and to all who enter here.
L: A reading from Proverbs: “By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.”
L: Let us pray: Gracious God, as a shining star once guided the magi to the birthplace of the infant Jesus, so enable those who dwell here to be your light in the world; through Jesus Christ we pray.
Using chalk, inscribe the horizontal frame above the door with the inscription shown below. The letters C M B come from the traditional (9th century) names for the “three kings”–Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar. Some also suggest “Christus Mansionem Benedicat,” which means “May Christ bless this dwelling.” The numbers stand for the year 2018.
Each person receives a turn to make one or more of the marks: 20 + C + M + B + 18.
L: A reading from Isaiah: “The effect of righteousness is peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever. My people will abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and quiet places.”
People may join hands or extend their hands outward and upward (orans) for the prayers.
L: Let us pray: Sovereign God, we pray that you will bless this home and all who live here with your gracious presence, that your love may be our inspiration, your wisdom our guide, your truth our light, and your peace our benediction; through Jesus Christ we pray.
L: Lord, remember your children and teach us to pray:
C: Our Father…
People may make the sign of the cross in remembrance of their baptism.
L: May the Lord watch over our going out and our coming in, from this time forth and forevermore.
Scripture: Mark 1:4-11 (week of January 7th)
A Notation for This Week’s Gospel
The baby Jesus is now a man; a man beginning his ministry. Perhaps he is still trying to sort out in his mind what he is being called to do. He looks for validation and turns to his cousin, John. John, meanwhile, has been faithfully calling people to prepare, turn around, and start over. He is pretty sure he will recognize Jesus, but he has not yet met him. When Jesus shows up, John goes into the water with him to baptize him, and both of them hear a voice from heaven. Jesus now knows he will be able to figure out what it is that he is being called to do.
Open the Book of Common Prayer. Look at the Baptism service (focus on pp. 304-305) and the promises made and what it might mean.
Brainstorm with the family to come up with ideas about what our church would be like – and our lives together – if we really focused on these promises. (Write ideas down to honor each contribution.)
Close: Pray by reading the prayer at the top of page 308. Substitute the pronouns “these” or “them” with “us.”
Try practicing a random act of kindness during Epiphany and report back as a family at a meal or other family time.
Scripture: John 1:43-51 (week of January 14, 2017)
Read this passage twice and with two different readers. The first time, try to get into the head of Philip. (Read the scripture.)
Then read it a second time and see if you can figure out Nathanael’s journey to Jesus. (Read it a second time.)
- What do we think “grabbed” Philip and made it possible for him to so quickly choose to follow Jesus?
- Since Jesus had already called Andrew and Peter, who came from the same hometown as Philip, do you suppose they had had a conversation with Philip?
- What concept did Philip choose to try to convince Nathanael?
- Why was Nathanael so worried about anything “good” coming out of Nazareth? (Nazareth was not a classy city. Expectations were that leaders would come from someplace like Bethlehem.)
- What did Jesus notice under the fig tree that convinced Nathanael?
Scripture: Mark 1:4-11 (week of January 21st)
Verse 15: Notice what Jesus says – and what he does not say. Not “I am going to show you the way to get to God,” but “the kingdom of God has come near.” What do you think this implies?
“Repent and believe.” Why not believe first, which will cause you to want to repent? What do you think “data” or “relationship” or both?
“Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” What do you think, “data” or “relationship”?
What do you think of the decisions to leave a boat full of fish and to leave nets that still needed mending – with an elderly father to run the fishing business?
Has there been a time in your lives (that you are comfortable sharing with us) when you were called to leave the equivalent of a boat load of fish to go and do something very different?
In what ways might we, here today, be called to leave boat loads of fish and go?
What “fishing for people” is waiting for our participation in our neighborhoods, our jobs, or our community?
Scripture: Mark 1:21-28 (week of January 28th)
A notation for this week’s Gospel
Who is this man? He now has a little band of raw recruits – eager to serve yet largely clueless. Does Jesus send them off to school? No. He shows them. He models the behavior that will form disciples. He teaches with authority.
He is right where they are – not way over their heads. He heals when he notices it is needed. Who he is, speaks powerfully: as one with authority.
Read through the definitions of authority.
Source or reference:
1a. (1) a citation (as from a book or file) used in defense or support (2) the source from which the citation is drawn; b. (1) a conclusive statement or set of statements (as an official decision of a court) (2) a decision taken as a precedent (3) testimony c. an individual cited or appealed to as an expert.
2a. power to influence or command thought, opinion, or behavior; b. freedom granted by one in authority.
To administer or command:
3a. persons in command; specifically government; b. a governmental agency or corporation to administer a revenue-producing public enterprise <the transit authority>
Once everyone is done reading the definition, ask if there is one definition that sticks out for them when they think of Jesus’ ministry.
What is the setting for this passage? (Jesus has just called the first four of his disciples, and he has brought them to Capernaum. It is the Sabbath and time to head to the synagogue.)
Why do we suppose the authorities at the synagogue deferred to Jesus’ choosing to teach? (We do not know. Perhaps they had heard of him and wanted to hear what he had to say, perhaps there was just something about him that made them feel they should invite him to preach. Perhaps he simply stood up and began to preach.)
What was the response of those who heard Jesus speak? (He “taught as one having authority.”)
What else might those who heard have said about his teaching? (Perhaps they said things like, “This has the ring of truth to it,” or, “I could understand every word he said!”)
What may have been the response of the scribes? (Jealousy, disgruntlement – “Hey, we study like mad to give good sermons and we don’t get any respect.” Fear – Who IS this guy and will he take our jobs?)
What do we think people understood as an “unclean spirit” and what do we make of it? (An “unclean spirit” would have been the explanation for a disease they could not otherwise diagnose.)
Scripture: Mark 1:29-39 (week of February 4th)
A Notation for This Week’s Gospel
A rhythm is surfacing. Out to teach or to heal – then in to pray and listen. Jesus goes to Simon’s house after the first teaching in the synagogue to find Simon’s mother-in-law ill. He takes her by the hand and helps her up. Right back into the kitchen she goes to cook supper. By evening, the whole town was crowding around – many in need of healing, and most were healed. Jesus gets a little rest and then long before dawn goes inward – to a lonely place to pray. We see the balance in which he lives.
If time permits, you might like to look for some types of prayers in The Book of Common Prayer. Since its focus is “common prayer,” there is less in the contemplative mode. Some healing prayers are found on pp. 458 – 461. Additional prayers begin on p. 810. Perhaps the best contemplative prayer is found in Psalm 46 verse 11a:
Be still, and know that I am God.
Be still, and know that I am.
Be still, and know.
Getting closure: The theme for this season of Epiphany is “Receiving the Gift and Offering the Gift.” How does the gift of unconditional love from God impact our life?
Closing Prayer: Pray one of the prayers you found that seems appropriate, or close with the “Be still “prayer.
Scripture: Mark 1:40-45 (week of Feb 11th)
We have been considering the two-faceted theme of Epiphany: receiving so we can give; giving and in return receiving. We have seen calling forth and reaching out: Jesus’ action of healing and then contemplative rest. Today we see, in addition to all this, bringing the new without tossing out the tradition.
Creating the setting: What might be a 21st Century equivalent of leprosy? Who do we think of as “unclean?” In AD 30, people thought leprosy was highly contagious and totally incurable. Once you come to a decision as to what that disease might be, keep that in mind as we read the passage for today.
Opening Prayer: For all those in our community who, for whatever reason, have come to be seen as outcasts, soften our hearts and show us ways we can choose to help. Amen.
The Scripture: Ask for family members to read the three parts: the leper, Jesus, and the narrator. When you have finished, invite whomever read the part of the leper and the part of Jesus to read once more.
- What impressions, images, thoughts, and concerns came to you as you heard these words?
- Collectively, let’s take the part of the leper. Getting inside his brain, what was the “No way!” part of his brain saying? What was the “Let’s risk it” part arguing back? What do you think got him the courage to approach Jesus?
- With Jesus, notice the empathy. What level of risk did Jesus think he was taking to touch the man?
- Why do you think Jesus complied with the temple rules and ordered the man to go show himself to a priest?
- Jesus gave the man two commands. Did he respond to both? Neither? Just one? Why do you think he did what he did?
Additional Family Epiphany Activity
THREE KINGS BREAD
To make the dough, you will need:
2/3 c. warm milk
1/4 c. warm water
2 eggs, room temp
3 T. butter, cut up
4 c. bread flour
1/2 c. sugar