Today is the Twelfth Day of Christmas. Tomorrow the wise men arrive to give their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. I have often thought about the difference those gifts must have made for the poor family that Jesus was born into. How many people in their situation would ever, ever have owned such treasures? The pleasure the wise felt in giving their gifts must have been so great!
Our family exchanges gifts on what we call Epiphany, which is whatever day closest to January 6th everyone can get together. We started out doing that a few years ago when our daughter Sally married so that Christmas Day was easily shared with her new family by marriage. But it has become something I love. It makes me think about the tradition of giving gifts, it makes me think about church history and the way the celebration of Christmas has changed through the centuries. It makes me count the days of Christmas, beginning with the First Day of Christmas on the 25th. And it helps tone down the commercialism of Christmas for me because I am not rushing about in the pre-Christmas bustle to find the perfect gifts for the people I love the most. And it extends the holiday I love by twelve extra days!!!
My father in law, Walter C Beglau, passed away on Epiphany in 1991. I always thought that was a very special day for him to arrive in the presence of God. We speak today of having an "Epiphany" as having a revelation. What a revelation it must have been for Walter.
Today I'll remember the story of the wise men, traveling for so long to honor a king they hoped to find by following a star. They are still in route today, like me. They are still seeking, still imagining the face of this king. Tomorrow, on Epiphany, they will have a revelation. They will kneel before a king that has come as a humble babe in the poorest of conditions. Because the human condition is so poor, and so lowly, that only a child born of our own experience could bring us the hope that love does indeed win. That there is nothing this life can throw at us that can defeat us. Because we are shored up, covered in grace. We are never good enough, but we are ever good enough because there is a love living in us that can be tapped, that can get us to the next morning, the next break in the hard part, the next time when we feel the assurance that sometimes we can only take on faith because we feel too lost and alone to endure.
I can hear them today. Those twelve drummers drumming. Their cadence is growing in depth and rich complexity. It's a really good rhythm. Leading to enlightenment. I am pretty certain that tomorrow I won't see the whole picture, because my understanding is too small to grasp it all. But any little Epiphany I can have is gift enough for me. For now. Happy Twelfth Day of Christmas.