When I was a child, we celebrated every day of Epiphany. Its a big word, but my mom would tell us even little kids can understand big words if they’re explained right. Epiphany, she explained, was the 12 days it took the Wise Men to follow the star and reach the baby Jesus. She also told us that an epiphany meant something that causes us to see the world differently. Like the birth of Jesus.
In our house, the Wise Men didn’t even make an appearance as part of the nativity until Christmas. And then, they started out somewhere in the kitchen, far away from the nativity scene in the living room. Every day, we moved them a bit closer. We would talk about their journey, where they slept, we named the camels and we talked about them stopping in to see Herod, a king without honor who didn’t speak the truth. She and my dad talked about how excited the kings were when they found Jesus, Mary and Joseph, not in the stable but in a house.
We talked about the gifts they brought for the baby and how odd they seemed. Not a toy in sight. We learned that the gold was presented as a gift of value, the frankincense as perfume because olden time people didn’t bathe often and the baby’s world should smell sweet, and the myrrh was an oil to place on the baby announcing that this was the baby King. We talked about what we would have brought to baby Jesus. Toys, soft clothes, real blankets, a pillow, a mobile with animals, a bassinet, something that played lullabies. Maybe a puppy.
We spoke about Herod the Horrible as my sister Carla called him. How could he be jealous of a baby? And he lied to kings! Who wants to hurt a baby? (Okay, I did try to throw my sister Carla out a window when she was an infant but I meant to throw her to my mom who was gardening in the back yard. Carla wouldn’t stop crying no matter how fast I rocked her bassinet and I knew my mom could make her stop. In my defense, I was only 3. And I trusted my mom’s ability to catch her.)
My mom described a dream that came to the kings that warned Herod meant to hurt Jesus and so they went home a different way. She asked us about dreams that we had. She explained that taking a different way home was a way to see new things or old things in a new way. That we should never be afraid of taking a different way to where we were going. Plans are meant to change, she implored.
On the last day of Epiphany, the wise men were placed in the nativity. We shared what we had learned over the last year. Calling one another weirdos was a bad thing and we had to sit at the kitchen table holding hands and saying nice things to each other when mom overheard us. Learning to ride a bike was hard but once you learned, it was easy. Including my younger brother Brad when we played house was a nice thing to do, even if we didn’t like doing it. That my baby sister Penny cold be bribed to do anything if you had a Hershey bar.
The emphasis my parents put on Advent and Epiphany allowed us to experience Christmas not as a day but as an adventure. Advent was the lead up to Christmas with something to talk about and look forward to. There was never a let down after Christmas because then we had Epiphany. We experienced the whole of Christmas, not just the day.
These traditions were a gift that has fed me spiritually my entire life. I carry such gratitude to parents who taught me reverence for anticipation, revelation and transformation. It has led to an appreciation of anticipation. I have learned to enjoy the journey as much as the destination. I spend time to reflect on what has happened and how that leads me to the next roads taken, new ways of thinking, of being.
May you know the gift of Epiphany and share its startling beauty with the world around you.
Dear God, thank you for your stories that guide us, fill us, make us think and let us know love. May our lives be filled with epiphanies that change us, see with new eyes and linger in our days with transformed hearts. Help us see you and your ways with spirits that reflect your love in our world. Give us courage to act on our new ways of seeing so that the world can see the God in us seeing the God in them. Rejoicing in Epiphany, Amen.