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Year C, Epiphany, 2019 – Breaking Dawn

January 1, 2019 / Molly Douthett / Epiphany

Happy New Year!! The calendar has changed over, and the sun has risen on the first day of the year. As I’m writing this, David is listening to some reports about the New Horizons mission that reached Ultima Thule (2014MU69) last night and is already 320K miles past it this morning. It’s moving fast and is mind bogglingly far away, racing into the darkness of space on a quest for knowledge. It’s exciting to think about what might be revealed! While New Horizons looks for what’s out there, we will be exploring what has already happened here. The prophet Isaiah and the psalmist both see visions of God’s light bringing glory to God’s people Israel. In Ephesians, Paul writes about the revelation he received through Jesus Christ, and in Matthew, we read about wise men receiving an epiphany, which can be defined as “a moment of sudden or great revelation that usually changes you in some way.” Meeting the Christ child would certainly qualify!

The Smarts of the Week [01:59]

Download the worksheets! They’re free.


This Week’s Texts

Isaiah 60:1-6 [06:27]

In EYE smart, the coming light made me think of an oncoming headlight and the excitement that brings – but not if you are Wile E. Coyote. Sudden light also happens when clouds move away and the sun breaks through. Verses 5 and 6 might be illustrated by imagining a series of delivery trucks pulling into the driveway bringing packages. For a special effect, enlist people to bring actual packages into the worship space! You might also break out super bright flashlights or use a spotlight to show the coming light.

For BODY smart, consider how a “new dawn” can sometimes make you feel better, especially after a good night’s sleep. (New Year’s Eve excepted, of course!) In verse four, the return of sons and daughters made David think of the times when he was a kid expecting company to come to the house. Our bodies definitely respond to anticipation. For a special effect, encourage your congregation to move as the passage is read.

  • EYE smart – [08:00]
  • BODY smart – [11:21]

Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14 [14:57]

In BODY smart, David concentrated on the person who comes to stand over the oppressed to defend them and found stories (linked below) of people who put their own bodies on the line on behalf of others. Also, invite your congregation to imagine in their bodies how the weak, needy, poor, and oppressed might feel. Don’t leave them there, though; invite them to assume the posture of the one who comes to deliver justice and righteousness. I imagine a lot of super hero poses!

For EYE smart illustrations using verses 12 and 13, show pictures of relief work, and if anyone in your congregation has done this kind of work, invite them to share their experience. The Psalm is full of NATURE images, but you can always use them to illustrate the reading. I went looking for images of a tribute parade and found a clip from The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. I’m pretty sure the Psalmist had a different type of pageant in mind, but the public arena may be similar.

  • EYE smart – [20:25]
    • This is not quite the kind of tribute parade the psalmist has in mind, but I think the spectacle is the same.
  • BODY smart – [15:56]
    • Here is a story about and interview with a nun in India who helps rescue women in abusive relationships.
    • Here is another story of a life turned around from crime and violence by someone offering a different vision.

Ephesians 3:1-12 [25:31]

I went back to some old educational graphics for this passage. Download the worksheet to see the theogram (“God picture” or “theology picture”) at the bottom of the page. Essentially, people sitting in a theater do not know what is behind the closed curtain. Only after it is drawn back can the audience “know” what is back there. In a way, this is a bit like sending a probe into space; we can make some guesses as to what’s out there, but don’t really know until we go look. A “big reveal” is the exciting climax of many Agatha Christie novels. For a special effect, bring a heat changing coffee mug into worship and talk about how God has added the presence of Jesus into our lives to show us God’s eternal intention for us.

In BODY smart, illustrate the physical sensation of revelation by remembering how it felt to open Christmas gifts when you were a kid (or maybe still as an adult!). We didn’t talk about it in the podcast, but the clip below illustrates the wonder of revelation very well. For a special effect, bring in a large gift and refer to the mystery of what may be inside. Eventually, unwrap it and display a cross or the communion elements!


Matthew 2:1-12 [32:46]

For BODY smart, ask your people what it feels like to experience some intense emotions when they receive bad news and joyful news. For a special effect, act out the arrival of the Magi.

I found a LOT of art about the visitation for EYE smart illustrations. I noticed that the scene usually has elements of the artist’s own culture and history. You can see this in the links below or simply go to the last link where Tamara Hill compiled a list. For a special effect, build on David’s BODY smart idea but use your own congregation’s gifts and costume. If we think of the visitation in our own culture, the story moves from the distant past into our present as quickly as a space probe goes past an object!

  • EYE smart – [36:45]
    • From Jesus Mafa – the Magi visiting the family outside an African hut.
    • Luca AmendolaAdoration of the Magi
    • For a challenging interpretation, check out this painting done in 1996 (found at The Tehran Projects).
    • A painting by Tai-Shan Schierenberg, 2012
    • And a blog post by Tamara Hill about the cultural and historic representations of the visit.
  • BODY smart – [33:31]

Image Credit: Photo of Kawah Ijen, Indonesia, by Nanda Dian Pratama on Unsplash. Used by permission.

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