Isaiah 52:7–10 (Listen)
7 How beautiful upon the mountains
are the feet of him who brings good news,
who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness,
who publishes salvation,
who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”
8 The voice of your watchmen—they lift up their voice;
together they sing for joy;
for eye to eye they see
the return of the LORD to Zion.
9 Break forth together into singing,
you waste places of Jerusalem,
for the LORD has comforted his people;
he has redeemed Jerusalem.
10 The LORD has bared his holy arm
before the eyes of all the nations,
and all the ends of the earth shall see
the salvation of our God.
Revelation 21:22–27 (Listen)
22 And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. 23 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. 24 By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, 25 and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. 26 They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. 27 But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
Matthew 12:14–21 (Listen)
14 But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him.
God’s Chosen Servant
15 Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there. And many followed him, and he healed them all 16 and ordered them not to make him known. 17 This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah:
18 “Behold, my servant whom I have chosen,
my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased.
I will put my Spirit upon him,
and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles.
19 He will not quarrel or cry aloud,
nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets;
20 a bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not quench,
until he brings justice to victory;
21 and in his name the Gentiles will hope.”
Psalm 72 (Listen)
Give the King Your Justice
72:1 Give the king your justice, O God,
and your righteousness to the royal son!
2 May he judge your people with righteousness,
and your poor with justice!
3 Let the mountains bear prosperity for the people,
and the hills, in righteousness!
4 May he defend the cause of the poor of the people,
give deliverance to the children of the needy,
and crush the oppressor!
5 May they fear you while the sun endures,
and as long as the moon, throughout all generations!
6 May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass,
like showers that water the earth!
7 In his days may the righteous flourish,
and peace abound, till the moon be no more!
8 May he have dominion from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth!
9 May desert tribes bow down before him,
and his enemies lick the dust!
10 May the kings of Tarshish and of the coastlands
render him tribute;
may the kings of Sheba and Seba
11 May all kings fall down before him,
all nations serve him!
12 For he delivers the needy when he calls,
the poor and him who has no helper.
13 He has pity on the weak and the needy,
and saves the lives of the needy.
14 From oppression and violence he redeems their life,
and precious is their blood in his sight.
15 Long may he live;
may gold of Sheba be given to him!
May prayer be made for him continually,
and blessings invoked for him all the day!
16 May there be abundance of grain in the land;
on the tops of the mountains may it wave;
may its fruit be like Lebanon;
and may people blossom in the cities
like the grass of the field!
17 May his name endure forever,
his fame continue as long as the sun!
May people be blessed in him,
all nations call him blessed!
18 Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel,
who alone does wondrous things.
19 Blessed be his glorious name forever;
may the whole earth be filled with his glory!
Amen and Amen!
20 The prayers of David, the son of Jesse, are ended.
Psalm 147:1–12 (Listen)
He Heals the Brokenhearted
147:1 Praise the LORD!
For it is good to sing praises to our God;
for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting.
2 The LORD builds up Jerusalem;
he gathers the outcasts of Israel.
3 He heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds.
4 He determines the number of the stars;
he gives to all of them their names.
5 Great is our Lord, and abundant in power;
his understanding is beyond measure.
6 The LORD lifts up the humble;
he casts the wicked to the ground.
7 Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving;
make melody to our God on the lyre!
8 He covers the heavens with clouds;
he prepares rain for the earth;
he makes grass grow on the hills.
9 He gives to the beasts their food,
and to the young ravens that cry.
10 His delight is not in the strength of the horse,
nor his pleasure in the legs of a man,
11 but the LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him,
in those who hope in his steadfast love.
12 Praise the LORD, O Jerusalem!
Praise your God, O Zion!
Psalm 100 (Listen)
His Steadfast Love Endures Forever
A Psalm for giving thanks.
100:1 Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth!
2 Serve the LORD with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!
3 Know that the LORD, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!
5 For the LORD is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.
Psalm 67 (Listen)
Make Your Face Shine upon Us
To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments. A Psalm. A Song.
67:1 May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make his face to shine upon us, Selah
2 that your way may be known on earth,
your saving power among all nations.
3 Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you!
4 Let the nations be glad and sing for joy,
for you judge the peoples with equity
and guide the nations upon earth. Selah
5 Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you!
6 The earth has yielded its increase;
God, our God, shall bless us.
7 God shall bless us;
let all the ends of the earth fear him!
The Epiphany of Our Lord: The Manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles (January 6)
About the Festival
A Christian observance of January 6 is found as early as the end of the second century in Egypt, as attested by the writings of Clement of Alexandria. After Easter and Pentecost, the Epiphany is therefore the oldest festival in the church year.
Easter and Pentecost both have Jewish antecedents. The Epiphany also has ancient sources, but the origins of the feast are disputed. Older studies suggested that both Christmas and Epiphany are related to pagan solstice festivals. Epiphanius (ca. 315-403) notes that in Egypt there was a night festival on the 11th of Tybi (January 5-6) celebrating the birth of the god Aion, god of time and eternity and protector of Alexandria, from a virgin, Kore. The waters of the Nile, it was thought, acquired miraculous powers and turned to wine that night, and the celebration involved a ritual drawing of water from the Nile at the beginning of the year. A festival in honor of Dionysus on January 5, Pater Liber, is mentioned by Pliny the Younger. The Christian celebration focused on the Baptism of Jesus because the Egyptian Church at the beginning of the year began the reading of the Gospel according to St. Mark, which begins with Jesus’ baptism. There came into existence, at least in the East, a Christian festival that echoed the ancient solstice celebration and which was called “the Holy Day of Lights” or “the Day of Holy Lights,” commemorating the manifestation of God in the birth and baptism of Jesus.
Such is what has been called the “history of religions hypothesis.” Careful study of the sources, however, fails to establish a close relationship between any pagan festivals and the Epiphany, and in the later twentieth century another hypothesis was developed based on the relationship between the date of Jesus’ death and conception and birth. In Asia Minor Christians celebrated their paschal festival at the same time as the Jewish Passover. Passover is celebrated on the 14th day of Nisan, the first month of spring in the Jewish lunar calendar. The Christians followed a solar calendar and set their paschal feast on the 14th day of Artemesios, the first month of spring in the solar calendar. When that Asian date was replaced with the Roman version of the Julian calendar, the result was April 6. Because Christian devotion understood Jesus’ perfect life to have begun and ended on the same date, the beginning of the Incarnation, his conception, was thought to have taken place on what was also to be the date of his crucifixion, April 6. His birth therefore would have been exactly nine months later, January 6.
The oldest name for this feast, still used by the Orthodox Churches, seems to have been “Theophany,” suggesting the origin of the day as a commemoration of the incarnation as the revelation of God. The name Epiphany derives from a Greek word meaning “appearing” or “manifestation.” In the Graeco-Roman world, a state visit of a king or emperor to a city of his realm, especially when he showed himself publicly to the people, was called an epiphany. In the East the Epiphany of Christ has always had a more theological and less historical or commemorative character, so the baptism rather than the birth of Christ was selected as the event to illustrate the doctrine of the manifestation of God to the world in Jesus Christ. The generous use of incense on this day is especially appropriate to honor God whose revelation is celebrated.
The Church in Alexandria emphasized the baptism of Jesus as a principal component of the Epiphany festival as a manifestation of who Jesus is. Mark’s Gospel, traditionally associated with Alexandria, begins directly with the account of the baptism of Jesus by John. By the fourth century, especially in Gaul and northern Italy, Jesus’ first miracle and revelation of his divine power, turning water into wine at the wedding at Cana, had became a part of the thematic richness of the feast of the Epiphany. Very early in the celebration of this feast, three mysteries of the manifestation of the divinity of Christ were combined: the visit of the Magi, the baptism of Christ, and Jesus’ first miracle at the wedding feast at Cana. These several themes are gathered and interwoven in a splendid antiphon to the Benedictus at Lauds (Morning Praise) for the Epiphany:
Today the Bridegroom claims his bride, the Church, since Christ has washed away her sins in the waters of the Jordan;
the Magi hasten to the royal wedding;
and the wedding guests rejoice, for Christ has changed water into wine, alleluia.
In the East, therefore, January 6 was observed as a feast of the baptism of Jesus and of his first miracle at Cana; in the West, the observance of December 25 was a celebration of Jesus’ birth and the visit of the Magi. In the second half of the fourth century an exchange of feasts took place, and both feasts came to be celebrated by the vast majority of Christians in both East and West.
With the spread of Christmas as the celebration of Christ’s birth, the Epiphany was, in the West, coming to be associated with the visit of the Magi, in part, perhaps, because of the transfer of the relics of the Magi from Constantinople in the fifth century. The Excerpta et Collecteana associated with the Venerable Bede gives the number of the Magi as three and supplies their names as well as a fanciful description of each and a symbolic interpretation of the gift each brought.
The Magi were the ones who gave gifts to the Lord. The first is said to have been Melchior, an old man with white hair and a long beard …who offered gold to the Lord as king. The second, named Gaspar [Caspar], young and beardless and ruddy-complexioned…honored him as God by his gift of incense, and offering worthy of divinity The third, black-skinned and heavily bearded, called Balthasar…by his gift of myrrh testified to the Son of Man who was to die.
This description has influenced the portrayal of the Magi ever since.
Matthew’s note that the Magi entered “the house” to offer their gifts to the Christ Child encouraged the development of the practice in many parts of Europe of blessing homes on this feast. As a sign of the blessing, three initials representing the traditional names the Magi (C [Caspar, sometimes Kaspar or Gaspar], M [Melchior], and B [Balthasar]), were marked in chalk over the doors of houses, each initial preceded by a cross signifying “holy or “saint.” Thus for the year 2008: 20 + C + M + B 08. The letters have also been understood to stand for Christus mansionem benedicat, Christ bless this house. The Roman Catholic Book of Blessings still has a form for blessing of chalk for this use; there is an order for such blessing of houses in the Episcopal Book of Occasional Services.
A useful Epiphany custom is a procession to the crib with children dressed and crowned as kings, bearing symbolic gifts for the Christ child: gold (money), incense (perhaps just a stick of incense to be burned in his honor), and a cross or other sign of his death. The three gifts have been understood to proclaim three mysteries: gold for a king, incense for a God, and myrrh for his burial. A star on a staff may replace the processional cross on this day.
Before people had ready access to calendars, it became a custom at the Epiphany to announce the dates of the feasts that would occur later in the year: Septuagesima (pre-Lent), Ash Wednesday, Easter Day, the Ascension, Pentecost, and the First Sunday in Advent. A modern form of the announcement is this, for the year 2008.
Dear brothers and sisters, the glory of the Lord has shone upon us, and shall ever be manifest among us until the day of his return. Through the rhythms and times and seasons, let us celebrate the mystery of salvation. Let us recall the year’s culmination, the Easter Triduum of the Lord: his Last Supper, his crucifixion, his burial, and his resurrection celebrated between the evening of the 20th of March and the evening of the 23rd of March. Each Easter, as on each Sunday, the holy Church makes present the great and saving deed by which Christ has for ever conquered sin and death. From Easter are reckoned all the days we keep holy. Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, will occur on the 6th of February. The Ascension of Our Lord will be commemorated on the 1st of May, and the joyful conclusion of Easter, the Day of Pentecost, will be celebrated on the 11th of May. Likewise the pilgrim Church proclaims the Passover of Christ in the feasts of the holy mother of God, in the feasts of the apostles, martyrs, and saints, and in the commemoration of the faithful departed. To Jesus Christ, who was, who is, and who is to come, the Lord of time and history, be endless praise, forever and ever.
The tradition of the announcement of the church year has been preserved in some places and revived in many others because it teaches that the celebration of the Nativity is only the beginning of the liturgical celebration of Christ’s life and that it has its culmination in the Paschal Mystery, the center of the liturgical year. Moreover, the announcement on the feast of the Epiphany, the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles, is an anticipation of the parousia, when Christ will come again in all his glory to gather the nations under his gentle rule.
Excerpts from New Book of Festivals & Commemorations: A Proposed Common Calendar of Saints by Philip H. Pfatteicher, copyright, 2008 by Fortress Press, an imprint of Augsburg Fortress.
See also: Epiphany (holiday)
From a sermon by Ernst P. Pfatteicher
The testimony of the Magi is the testimony of the learned men of their day; the testimony of heathen lands, a testimony that Christ had come to “lighten the Gentiles.”
The final testimony…follows a preliminary testimony which demands a trial of their faith. In the case of the shepherds the message “unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior” calls forth faith as the shepherds say, one to another, “let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord made known unto us.” In the case of Simeon and Anna, life has been a long-continued assertion of faith. Their constant attendance upon temple services and ministrations was the resultant of their faith, a faith that was to find its full fruition in the coming of the Messiah. Was the faith of the Magi a lesser thing as it impelled them to seek the fruition of their hopes in subjecting themselves to a long and tedious caravan journey? The New Testament is thus born in an atmosphere of faith. As Abraham’s faith was tested many centuries before when he was told to count the stars and thus count his seed, the New Testament points to but one star, it may be, but lends to it a significance which is supreme.…
To the Magi the study of the heavenly bodies…was their program of life. They sought thus to interpret life. Fortunately they did not spend all their time in star gazing. They endeavored to apply the lessons which star gazing taught them. Why did they leave home? Was it to obtain a better vantage point from which to observe the peculiar constellation which had swung into their ken? Was it to consult with others eminent as star gazers? You know very well from the statement with which they greeted Herod what their purpose was in setting forth upon their journey. “Where is He that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in its rising, and are come to worship Him.” The star had not appeared to them the day before. They had had abundant opportunity to be cured of any superstitious emotions, moods of frenzy or fanatical zeal on their journey, and perhaps for some time before they started, for when Herod later carried his terrible decree concerning the Innocents into execution, he ordered that all children two years of age and under must be put to death “according to the time which he had diligently enquired of the wise men.” The remarkable thing about this story is its very deliberateness. Not that they might advance their studies, but that they might worship the King of the Jews did the Magi set forth upon their pilgrimage. The constellation was not the goal of their journey. They lost sight of that, and they expressed manifest surprise when it reappeared as they were leaving Jerusalem. Nor did they look upon an interview with Herod as their goal. They followed their star from the holy city to the little town of Bethlehem and there lost sight of it, not necessarily because the constellation was no longer visible, for we are clearly told that it stood over the house where the young child was, but because they needed no planetary constellation after having approached the Light of the World.…
Herod’s thoughts centered solely in the preservation of his throne. He ignored personal and national righteousness. The appearance of the Star of the Christ signifies the ultimate destruction of the sort of power, the sort of reign he represented. The door of entrance into the spiritual kingdom of the King of the Jews was open to Herod and his court. He might have accompanied the Magi in their onward march. He would have sacrificed nothing by so doing. The star of Herod was not the star of the Christ, however. The gloom and misery and darkness in Rama were caused by a conflict between these stars. The powers of darkness will ever continue to endeavor to obscure the true star. Herod will ever try to outwit the Magi.…
The Magi are representatives of the Gentile world and would tell us ere the story of the Nativity must give way to other stories of the Christ that the good tidings are, without doubt, intended for all people who will arise and accompany them to Bethlehem.
Ernst P. Pfatteicher, Sermons on the Gospels: Advent to Trinity(Philadelphia: General Council Publication House, 1918), 80-86.
O God, by the leading of a star you manifested your only Son to the peoples of the earth: Lead us, who know you now by faith, to your presence, where we may see your glory face to face; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Gregorian sacramentary, trans. (BCP)
Readings: Isaiah 60:1-6 (9); Psalm 72; Ephesians 3:(1) 2-12; Matthew 2:1-12
Hymn of the Day: “Earth has many a noble city” (H82 127, LBW 81)
Prayers: For the nations of the earth; For seekers of wisdom; For the spirit of humility and reverence; For those who bring offerings to God; For churches named for the mystery of the Epiphany, for which this day is their feast of title
This daily prayer and Bible reading guide, Devoted to Prayer (based on Acts 2:42), was conceived and prepared by the Rev. Andrew S. Ames Fuller, director of communications for the North American Lutheran Church (NALC). After a challenging year in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been provided with a unique opportunity to revitalize the ancient practice of daily prayer and Scripture reading in our homes. While the Reading the Word of God three-year lectionary provided a much-needed and refreshing calendar for our congregations to engage in Scripture reading, this calendar includes a missing component of daily devotion: prayer. This guide is to provide the average layperson and pastor with the simple tools for sorting through the busyness of their lives and reclaiming an act of daily discipleship with their Lord. The daily readings follow the Lutheran Book of Worship two-year daily lectionary, which reflect the church calendar closely. The commemorations are adapted from Philip H. Pfatteicher’s New Book of Festivals and Commemorations, a proposed common calendar of the saints that builds from the Lutheran Book of Worship, but includes saints from many of those churches in ecumenical conversation with the NALC. The introductory portion is adapted from Christ Church (Plano)’s Pray Daily. Our hope is that this calendar and guide will provide new life for congregations learning and re-learning to pray in the midst of a difficult and changing world.