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A blog of the Evangelical Lutheran Liturgy

Calendar Considerations for Christmas through Epiphany

As mentioned previously, the feast of St. Stephen is appropriately celebrated this year in lieu of the First Sunday after Christmas as St. Stephen's day is traditionally a feast of the first order and the First Sunday after Christmas a feast of the second order. In fact, according to the traditional Western ranking of feasts, the First Sunday of after Christmas is only celebrated on those years when Sunday falls on December 29th, 30th, and 31st.

If your parish observes a Divine Service on New Year's Eve or New Year's Day, the propers for the Circumcision and Name of Jesus are appropriately used. If you have services on both days, consider using a votive Divine Service on one or the other of them - Divine Service for Peace, or Divine Service for the Heathen would be appropriate. (LSB does offer propers specifically for a New Year's Eve service. However, the theme of this service is something of a return to Advent with a "Watch" Gospel lesson; or rather, an intrusion of the civil calendar into the Octave of Christmas. For my part, I think the Circumcision and Name of Jesus propers are more fitting.)

Sunday, January 2nd is appropriately celebrated as the Second Sunday after Christmas which has as its Gospels Matt. 2:13-23 - the flight into Egypt. This is an interesting anachronism in the calendar, as the reading for Epiphany is Matt. 2:1-12, the visit of the Magi. It's rather like the backwards reading of John 14-16 in the Sundays leading up to Pentecost.

The celebration of Epiphany causes much calendar confusion and dislocation between parishes due to the fact that Epiphany will be transferred to Sunday the 9th in many places (please see the poll at right). Since the Sundays after Epiphany are, well, the Sundays after Epiphany, do you count from the 9th or the 6th? This is further complicated by the desire to celebrate the Baptism of Our Lord on a Sunday, which celebration appropriately replaces the First Sunday after Epiphany. Then which Sunday after Epiphany do you skip to get back on track with the actual calendar? Oh, and once again, are you counting Epiphany as having happened on the 6th or the 9th? All told, we may have different parishes celebrating Sunday, January 16th as any of the following: The Baptism of our Lord, the First Sunday after Epiphany, or the 2nd Sunday after Epiphany! This confusion could last all the way to Transfiguration when the date of Easter, not Epiphany, once again takes charge of the Calendar.

I recommend following these two principles. 1. The actual date of a feast should govern the Sundays that fall after it, even when the festival is transferred for local reasons. 2. The Baptism of our Lord is most appropriately celebrated on the next Sunday following a parish's observance of Epiphany.

This gives the following Calendars for parishes depending on their observance of Epiphany.

In parishes that celebrate Epiphany on January 6th
January 9: Baptism of Our Lord (transferred)
January 16: 2nd Sunday after Epiphany
January 23: 3rd Sunday after Epiphany
The observance that is skipped here is the First Sunday after Epiphany (Boy Jesus in the Temple)

In parishes that celebrate Epiphany on January 9th
January 9: Epiphany (transferred)
January 16: Baptism of our Lord (transferred)
January 23: 3rd Sunday after Epiphany
The observances skipped here are First Sunday after Epiphany (Boy Jesus in the Temple) and the Second Sunday after Epiphany (the Wedding at Cana).

Propers for all these days as well as notes on the traditional precedence of the various feast days of the Church Year are included in Daily Divine Service Book: A Lutheran Daily Missal.

Pr. H. R.10 Comments