Sometimes I could really use an epiphany. It is interesting to me how this third definition in the dictionary has become the primary meaning of the word in common useage. The way most people I've heard use the word "epiphany" it is anything that gives a sudden flash of insight. It is just one more example of how a holy and faith laden idea has been coopted by the world to be used for other, even pagan purposes.
This is not the primary meaning of the word. The word indicates a great day when the magi showed up on Jesus' doorstep and gave Him gifts. It was the coming of Messiah not just to the Jews (that was earlier through Jesus' family and through the shepherds), but to the Gentiles as well, maybe some pagan royal advisors of some kind from Persia. Suddenly, though, people from other parts of the world were aware of Jesus' coming and were taking the message of this amazing child to others in other lands.
Epiphany is also the day we observe today, celebrating that event. Of all the holidays, this may be the most missionary holiday we have. It is a clear indication of the gospel going to other lands, taken by believing people who were from those lands.
I try to imagine what was happening in the hearts and minds of these men as they presented their gifts. What did they see in the Christ Child as they worshiped? What transformative event could it have been? Did they come in doubt or in faith? Did faith happen suddenly on the spot as we would interpret the word "epiphany"?
May I come to Jesus in faith today, finding as I arrive a Divine human bringing me life and light. May those virtues engulf my spirit like a torrent and wash me anew with His goodness.
We all learned in our early years of school how to write different kinds of notes. One was a bread and butter note. I always found that one to have an interesting name. It is a special kind of thank you note. Perhaps you owe somebody a bread and butter note for their hospitality this past Thursday. Thank you notes were another form we were taught, and which most of us treated like an academic exercise and quickly forgot.
Do you write thank you notes? The Thanksgiving season is an interesting time to think of such a thing, because we don't write thank you notes to God but to people. Thank you notes come back into play in about a month ... at which time many of us will forget about them again.
I think Thank you notes are nice. Many of us probably think of them as overly formal. We stick them in the same category as an engraved invitation and assume that people in our tax bracket do not indulge in such frippery.
However, they are not froth. All we have to do to realize that is to consider how we feel when we receive one. In our adult years we grow jaded about mail. It is full of fliers and bills. But once in awhile a personal envelope makes it to our door, a card, or (it still happens even in these digital days) a letter. When it does, at our house, it gets placed in a special pile as we sort the mail: junk, bills, interesting or important, personal. It is the last thing we open, relishing the idea that somebody thought about us enough to spend time and some effort to send something we could hold in our hand.
Thank you notes are expressions of personal regard. They say "You were nice to me and I have not forgotten." Giving thanks to God is easy. We simply send up a prayer. Give thanks to Him by thanking him for somebody else. Then let them know ... in writing.
Today is my sister's birthday. It's important to remember that family is a gift from God. He created us to be born of a couple parents and to be dependent on them for everything until we can fend for ourselves. The fact that the system is designed so people can also grow up together is proof enough for me that we have a built-in system for socialization. It is among siblings that I first learned to share, to make peace, to make room for the needs and wants of others, to be empathetic and kind. The Bible says we can know God by looking at what He has created. Well, He created families and when they are working at their most functional, they do indeed reflect His goodness.
Birthdays are days our culture designates to celebrate those we love, and hopefully they feel our regard and enjoy it to the fullest. But it is also a time for the rest of us to remember how important the person we are celebrating is to our own balance. When we celebrate a birthday fully, it is often with and for a person who is an emotional resource to us, someone we talk to in particular circumstances and they share our joy and pain. Since conversations like that with those to whom we are closest are so reciprocal, we tend to forget how much we appreciate and need them. The gift of celebration is a "thank you" writ large.
So, Happy Birthday, Becky. I hope your day brings you joy. And may the year to come bring you all the peace that's out there. God bless you, you are certainly a blessing to me.
Pastor, Norma Mennonite Church.