Winterville United Methodist Church

Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors

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December 19, 2016 “Epiphanies”

When asked about their most memorable Christmas, individuals can usually pinpoint one Christmas among many, many others that is special in some way.  For some it may have been the culmination of an otherwise very difficult year—lean and mean financially, yet Santa showed up with some small treat that made the holiday magical.  For some it may have been that a parent serving in the military was not supposed to be present but an early release allowed that mom or dad to show up and to be the delight of sons and/or daughters.

My mom in her early adult life had numerous sad Christmases following my dad’s untimely death.  But after some time, she married my step-father who was like a child in his anticipation of Christmas!  In particular, he loved to help plan for the gifts that Santa would leave at our home.  I suspect that our first Christmas as a family was the most memorable for my mom.  It certainly was my most memorable experience of Christmas as a child.

Santa happened to be working at a party near our house.  My dad decided to break all rules—no tucking us into bed, no harsh reprimands about going to sleep before Santa would arrive, no fitful sleep and then getting up in the wee hours of the morning.  Instead my dad planned the timetable such that as soon as we got home from my Grandparents’ home there would be a knock at the door.  My brother and I were the ones encouraged to answer the door.

Imagine our surprise and wonder that Santa would show up with gifts in hand.  Imagine how shocking that we—among all the children of the world—would be privileged to see Santa at work firsthand delivering our gifts instead of our simply showing up in the living room the next morning with the gifts spread under the tree!

As I reflect on that special year I wonder that I never speculated as to why Santa had never made a person-to-person visit on Christmas Eve prior to that event.  And what’s more, in subsequent years I never wondered why he didn’t show up person-to-person on that Christmas Eve as well.  I suppose I simply concluded that Santa shows up when Santa shows up—that there is no human manipulation or human action in creating the “epiphany.”

As persons of faith we know that “epiphany” has to do with an appearing.  God has special epiphanies that he makes in our lives.  We are not in charge.  Epiphanies are not at our command.  We don’t control them.  Instead we simply ask God to prepare our minds and our hearts, and we ask God to make our eyes open when epiphanies are set to occur.  We pray, “God, help me to see you and to see the meaning of Christmas as a poor child awakens to Christmas surprises not otherwise possible apart from the help of generous people.  Help me to see you in the faces of people spread across the news—those in war-torn areas or in impoverished nations who still are able to capture a sense of hope through the manger event.  Help me to see you as Christians gather together on Christmas Eve and on Christmas Day to read the age-old story and to sing, “Joy to the World, the Lord is come!”

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