January 6th is the Day of Epiphany and the start of the all-important church season of Epiphany. Epiphany comes from a Greek word that means manifestation. We are seeing the manifestation of God’s light and life and love in the world. God shines a light in the darkness, but if humans do not see that light and follow and serve it we do not fulfill our life’s meaning and purpose, and human civilization goes astray.
The season of Epiphany celebrates many ways we see the light, starting this Sunday with the Magi seeing, understanding and following the star to Christ in Bethlehem. Next Sunday, the 13th, we celebrate the epiphany that took place at the Baptism of Christ, and the following Sunday, the 20th, we will celebrate seeing the Spirit of Christ in humans, including Martin Luther King Jr., and hearing the Spirit in African-American gospel and spiritual music. Epiphany ends on March 3rd with the dazzlingly brilliant spiritual presence of Christ within the man Jesus that was revealed to the disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration. That Sunday gives us our last burst of light before going into the dark wilderness of Lent on Ash Wednesday.
This year’s Epiphany Sunday service will be followed by an exciting congregational meeting where we will begin working together to discern how to fulfill our new Future Directions Vision, particularly where it says, “We intend to be a force, not merely a presence, effecting positive social change for peace, justice and the care of God’s creation.” The service will ask where the light of Christ is leading us now. It will reflect on the story of the Magi in Matthew 2, the beautiful “Arise, shine!” passage from Isaiah 60 and also the Golden Rule passage from the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7.
We will talk with the children about the Magi as the wizards with superpowers that they actually are in the story (not kings, not merely wise men)—a new interpretation, perhaps, but consistent with their Zoroastrian religion and the connection to magic that the word Magi reveals.
In addition to “What Child Is This” we will sing “We Three Kings of Orient Are” and a new Epiphany hymn set to the Austrian Hymn tune (as in “Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken”). The choir will sing the Bach harmonized chorale “O Morning Star, How Fair and Bright” and the popular Prayer of St. Francis, “Make Me a Channel,” arranged by the Amidons, as well as the round “Rise Up, O Flame” by Christoph Praetorius. Annemieke will play contemporary composer Tan Dun‘s mystical “Herdboy’s Song” and two pieces from Franz Schubert’s Moment Musical Opus 94. You can watch a performance of “Herdboy’s Song” below, and you can hear Annemieke play Schubert in concert in our sanctuary on Friday evening, January 4th.