Epiphany: Reflections of Advent Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love — A Guest Post by Judy Brandon

Many thanks to John Stuart for this freely shared image


Before Advent I shaped an Advent Wreath ceremony without fire — to do the unexpected in Advent and also to honor the folks who have suffered so much from fire this year (in the autumn that was significantly in California (US) and the people in this world who do not have access to water. Judy Brandon reshaped the entire piece adding hymns liturgy and Holy Communion for Epiphany and offers it to anyone who would like to use it to send folks into the New Year to come. I deeply appreciate her gifted use of this work. I have also added a photograph just sent to me from St. Paul’s Church in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada by R. Matthew Stevens.

Epiphany: Reflections of Advent Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love

Today’s service was originally written as an Advent Wreath liturgy. Maren Tirabassi says:
“One thing we know about the Messiah. The birth in Bethlehem was not what was expected – those who longed for a Messiah were hoping for a political leader who would free them from Roman rule. Not a child, not a stable, not straw, not shepherds, not magi. One of the things we expect in Advent every year is the lighting of Advent candles on an Advent wreath. This Advent wreath ceremony surprises by inviting not the lighting of a wick but the pouring of living water each week.

[2018 was] a year of terrible fires throughout the world. California which has suffered from raging wild fires for several years faces the worst fires in history. At this date more than a thousand people are missing. We all hold in our deepest prayers those who mourn lost family and friends, those whose homes, businesses, security has been destroyed, those who have been unable to breathe clearly for weeks. We also pray for firefighters, for first responders, for those who offer shelter and comfort.”




Leader: Jesus’ birth brings us hope.

Left Side: “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.” Psalm 42:1

Right Side: The earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Genesis 1:2

As the people of Israel hoped for water in dry times,
so they hoped for the Messiah, the one promised.
We, too, have been thirsty for tenderness,
and longing for God’s Spirit to hover
over the dryness in our lives.
Long ago they thought Emmanuel
would be a leader in war, a torch of freedom.
The child who was born was called living water,
true vine, a door for all, bread of hope.

Carol Blue Booklet # 32 We Three Kings

The very first people to start traveling to Bethlehem were the magi. They were following a star from a long distance away. Maybe they even began before Mary knew she was pregnant. If you have a crèche in your home or church, maybe you want to place the three magi and any camels in another room or a table at a distance. Because they were following a star, they could only travel at night. There is a story that there were several days with clouds in the sky and they were just stuck! They became discouraged and afraid they would be too late. A village girl approached them and said, “ Come to the well in the middle of town. Anyone can see what they hope for there. I believe you can see your star.” And they did. They looked up – no star; they looked down – the star was shining and they could plot their directions. The girl, Rachel, said, “A well is a blessing.”

Today we pour water of Hope.
We celebrate the wells of grace
and the gentle rains that bring new growth
and quench our doubts and fears.
We welcome the Messiah who came long ago,
and who comes to us in our days. (pouring)
Emmanuel, God-with-us, help us to draw deeply on our sources of hope and grace to share with all we meet. Amen.



Leader: Jesus’ birth brings us peace.

Left Side: The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; and leads me beside still waters… Psalm 23: 1-3a

Right Side: Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. Revelation 22: 1-2

We need peace in our lives and in our world.
Every month we need healing,
and especially when times are hardest
when we need rest from busyness
and gentle words for many sorrows.
Down by the riverside
we follow the prints of Peace.
And there we meet the Prince of Peace.

*Carol NCH 153 v. 1, 2 Who Would Think that What Was Needed


Sheep need water. Only if the plants they find are very moist can they get by without it and that was never true in the hills around Bethlehem. If sheep can dream it is about leaves fat with water; if young shepherds can dream, it is about wells or streams without resident bullies. A story goes that when the angels came to sing about Jesus being born in Bethlehem, one shepherd had to stay with the flock, along with the dogs who protect against wolves. An angel came down and asked this left-out shepherd whether he wanted a bright fire and warm food. “No,” was the answer. “A warmer cloak?” “No.” “Shall I sing an angel song or let you touch my wings?” “No.” “What do you want while you are waiting?” “Let there be a small safe spring in these rocks, so none of my flock will sleep thirsty.” And there was.

We pour the water of Peace,
and we celebrate still and peaceful water
and those who make it accessible in our days,
for the river of life is all of God’s children. (pouring)
Emmanuel, God-with-us, help us to draw deeply on hope and drink our fill of God’s peace. Amen


Leader: Jesus’ birth brings us joy.

Left Side: I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. Isaiah 43:19

Right Side: ‘… those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.’ John 4:14

This is a time of many traditions.
God is always doing a new thing.
God offers us hope, peace, and even joy,
knowing that we live in a sad world.
And we do a new thing –
not “store” presents, but gifts of the heart.

Carol: NCH 105 v.1, 2 Gentle Joseph, Joseph Dear


“Let’s borrow a donkey.” Joseph said to Mary, and that advice was something their son Jesus would remember. Nala donkey was the silliest donkey in all Nazareth. Nala would be frisky and then balk. She went too fast and then wanted to take a nap. She drank her water with so much gulping and guzzling that everybody in the city square would turn and look. But Nala made people laugh. There were soldiers all around and nobody wanted to smile, but Nala made them laugh. The census meant that there were caravans of migrants on the road, uncomfortable, hungry, tired, but Nala made them laugh. Mary was hurting and Joseph was worried, but Nala’s spitting and snorting and sneezing made them laugh. Then, when they were almost in despair of finding a place to rest someone found room for them among the animals and Nala twitched her ears and heehawed loudly. And in that moment there was joy.

We have poured enough Hope,
to put out great fires and fears.
We heard the Messiah say, “Peace be still,”
and knew it meant our waves of chaos.
Now we pour the water of Joy,
and we remember from a story about Cana
that, when Jesus asks us to pour water,
it means we are going to have a party. (pouring)
Prayer: Emmanuel, God-with-us, when we leave this place may we be hydrated with hope, bathed in peace, and willing to splash the world with joy. Amen.


Leader: Jesus’ birth brings us love.

Left Side: And whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.’ Matthew 10:42

Right Side: But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. Amos 5:24

During Advent we gather around a wreath.
We remember that God’s love is a circle.
Today, we have poured bowls of water
rather than lighting candles,
and this, too, is for the sake of love,
comfort for those who mourn the losses of fires,
and letting another symbol
remind us of the starlight and the straw.
We celebrate all ways people share love,
and wait for the birth of Christ in our lives.

Carol 223 v. 1-3 Star Child


(Place cups and pitchers of water at intervals on the side shelves in the sanctuary.)
When a baby is born it takes a lot of water. Water heated up to make everything safe and clean, water cooled down to wash the baby before swaddling, and cold water on a cloth for a mother’s forehead. At one point Joseph poured a bucket over his head just to stay awake. Then the animals needed to be watered and the visitors needed a drink and, with all the hay out of their manger, some water needs to be nearby in case of fire. Somebody was running around with water in Bethlehem long ago.
(Pull out a tray with cups of water) Maybe it was you. Maybe it is you. (Choose an extrovert) Would you pass water to everyone who wants it? Oh, you need help? Who would like to help getting water to people? (As water is quickly passed with many helpers) Modern day love is helping everyone have water.

We have poured a cup of Hope,
for the lips of the hopeless.
We have poured a cup of Peace
in a world of conflict
We have poured a cup of Joy, —
did someone mention – hose?
is anyone afraid of splashing?
We pour the water of Love
and our hearts are not as hard as flint,
so we pour love in the name of Jesus
who came long ago and comes today. (pouring)
Emmanuel, God-with-us, long ago and always – we come to you for living water, for our world has too many fires, too many thirsty people, and a great drought of the Spirit. We welcome your coming and share your good news. Amen


Leader: Christ, the light of the world, has come: our hope, our peace, our joy, our love in one small child.

Left Side: Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the LORD will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you. Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. Isaiah 60:1-3

Right Side: When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Matthew 2:10-11

A story for all ages:

Advent wreath from St. Paul’s United Church in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada.

Christmas was unexpected. Those who longed for a Messiah were hoping for a political leader who would free them from Roman rule — not a child, not a stable, not straw, not shepherds, not magi. This year at (name of church) Today we have done the unexpected, and expressed our love and concern for those impacted by terrible fires and those in desperate need of water around the world by pouring living water rather than lighting a candle wick. Today we unite the traditional and the new, just as the baby born in Bethlehem was both fore-told by prophets of old and the good news of surprising angels.

CAROL NCH 159 v. 1-3 As with Gladness Those of Old

We have poured out the water of hope, peace, joy, and love:
Living water is hope for the hopeless.
The water of life is for the healing of nations.
God makes springs in the desert and turns tears into rejoicing.
A cup of cool water is a gift of love.
The One who stills winds and waves and the troubled waters of our lives is born.

And now we add candles in gratitude for the one who is both living water and the light of the world.
We light a candle of hope, because our hopes and fears of all the years are met in Bethlehem.
We light a candle of peace, because we sing peace on earth.
We light a candle of joy, because we need comfort and joy.
We light a candle of love, because love comes down at Christmas.
Now we light the Christ Candle, symbol of the birth of Christ Jesus, light of the world — long, long ago, and this very moment in our lives and in our world.
Gracious God, we thank you for your gift of the child of Bethlehem to the world. We thank you that Christ’s coming makes hope, peace, joy, and love possible for every person in every nation. Encourage us to do our part to bring good will and peace to our families, our communities and our earth, and now let your Spirit touch us through the words and music we hear tonight, in the name of Jesus Christ we pray, Amen.



Jesus tells us that our gifts of self make a difference. Let us bring our offerings to the one born among us. Like the wise ones we come, O Jesus, bearing our gifts as witness to the blessings your birth brings into our lives and the world. We are filled with gratitude for the abundance that is ours by your grace. Use our gifts to bring hope to the hearts of those gathered in this place and beyond. Amen.

When you bring your offering, please stop at the water table to choose a star. Let the star word you have chosen guide your journey of faith in 2019.




Hymn of Preparation Blue Booklet # 4 Come and Gather at the Manger


Creator God, You moved upon void bringing order out of chaos
and breathed into earthen forms the gift of life.
When we strayed from your presence
you sent the holy child Jesus to redeem us,
to embrace the broken body of humanity
with the grace of your love and forgiveness.
We give thanks for this great gift
for your reconciling and transforming care.
Move now among us as you moved among the disciples
through the power of your spirit.
Bring to us healing and wholeness
through the celebration of this meal.




Giver of All, we give thanks for the gift of Jesus and for the renewing grace we have received at this your table. As we have received the meal of bread and drink, brought together from the harvest from field and vineyard, so may we commit our lives to work toward your dream of a world living in unity. Amen.


* CAROL NCH 160 Hark the Herald Angels Sing, Jesus the Light of the Worl



Sources for today’s liturgy include:
Maren Tirabassi conceived the elements of this service as an “Advent wreath ceremony without fire” in response to the many people who were touched in 2018 by wildfires, tornados, hurricanes, and floods. With minor changes and her blessing it has become a way to take our Advent reflections into the new year on the Sunday of Epiphany. Maren blogs at Gifts in Open Hands.

Come and Gather at the Manger, new words to an old tune was written by Catherine MacDonald who blogs at My Window on God’s World. The tune is Beach Spring.

Judy Brandon has written the communion liturgy.

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3 Responses to Epiphany: Reflections of Advent Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love — A Guest Post by Judy Brandon

  1. Christine says:

    Thank you so much for this Epiphany Service. In Australia being in the southern hemisphere the power of darkness and the chill of winter cold do not play out so readily in our Christmas liturgies, we are coming into the longest days, lightest time of year. But we are also getting hot and dry, and I have been pondering on Jesus as Living Water as an image for our summer time/Christmas celebrations. I will use the Epiphany service, thank you. Grace and peace to you for the coming year. Christine MacDowall

  2. Maren says:

    I am delighted to hear it, Christine and i will be passing it on to Judy. Many joys to you for the New Year and Epiphany.

  3. rezrevres says:

    What a wonderful way to complete the Advent cycle, and carry forth the water theme into the new year. Thanks so much for sharing this, and many blessing upon all of your ministries.

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