Epiphany

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Worshipping on New Year’s Day

In 2023, New Year’s Day will fall on a Sunday, which may seem like an obstacle for gathering for worship. But it doesn't have to be. This will be the final Sunday of the Christmas season, when the service is traditionally set aside to open the new season of Epiphany. File photo by Kathleen Barry, United Methodist News Service.
In 2023, New Year’s Day will fall on a Sunday, which may seem like an obstacle for gathering for worship. But it doesn't have to be. This will be the final Sunday of the Christmas season, when the service is traditionally set aside to open the new season of Epiphany. File photo by Kathleen Barry, United Methodist News Service.

In 2023, New Year’s Day will fall on a Sunday.

Whenever a secular holiday falls on a Sunday, it can present a unique challenge to churches. Congregations may see a drop-off in worship attendance as parishioners sleep in after staying up late the night before to watch the ball drop. Pastors and worship leaders also might be tempted to put less effort into their morning services. Rather than view this confluence of events as an obstacle, congregations should see it as an opportunity.

Remember that New Year’s Day also happens exactly one week after Christmas Day and therefore is part of the larger 12-day liturgical season of Christmas. Because this is the final Sunday of the Christmas season, the service is traditionally set aside to open the new season of Epiphany. Epiphany begins with the celebration of the visit of the magi recounted in Matthew 2:1-12. During the Season of Epiphany, Jesus’ nature as the Son of God is revealed through various encounters and miracles in Scripture: the arrival of the magi, Jesus’ baptism and the Transfiguration. To learn more about Epiphany click here.

As you prepare worship for Sunday, Jan. 1, here are few tips:

Acknowledge that it is New Year’s Day

Don’t treat New Year’s Day like the elephant in the room. It’s OK to wish everyone a Happy New Year and say how much you appreciate them still coming out to church that morning. Try to tie the theme of new beginnings and possibilities to the miracle of Christ’s coming into the world as a reality-changing event.

Reflect on watch night service

Did your church do a watch night service the night before? If so, you may want to share highlights or insights from the event for the benefit of those who stayed home. Watch night services are a great way to tie the celebration of the new year to the celebration of Christ’s coming. Find watch night worship materials here.

Remind them that they’re still in the Season of Christmas

Don’t put away your Christmas hymns just yet. We’re still in the Season of Christmas and celebrating the birth of Jesus. Discipleship Ministries has some great suggestions for Christmas hymns that tie in well with the story of the magi. Also be sure to keep any Christmas decorations up in the sanctuary.

Think about what Epiphany means for your church

The word "epiphany" literally means “a sudden and unexpected insight or revelation.” If your congregation has had a rough year or is anxious about the future, then this is a perfect time to preach on the miracle of the Epiphany in which Gentiles from a far-away country with little to no knowledge of Judaism unexpectedly became some of the first people to see the Messiah. Epiphanies can happen where and when we least expect. There may be epiphany moments in your church’s future only God can see.

Here are some other resources to help your church plan its Epiphany services: