I have a confession to make: years ago, I introduced the celebration of Epiphany into our family for all the wrong reasons.
Let me try to defend myself. In my husband's perfect world, I would decorate the house for Christmas as a birthday present for him, in October, at least a week before Halloween (which we don't celebrate, by the way). Then I'd leave the tree and all the decorations up....forever. Instead, each year in the real world, when it was time to pack everything up, he would become grumpy and complaining. He would enlist the kids in his attempts to make me feel like some sort of horrid grinch who was destroying Christmas by insisting that the decorations be gone sometime in January.
So then I came up with the idea of softening the blow of packing everything away by celebrating Epiphany. We would have a delicious feast, enjoy the last of the Christmas goodies and music, have a time of family worship centered on the theme of Epiphany, and then pack everything away.
It worked out well for some years. Then, one year, my husband complained, "Why do you insist on ruining my celebration of Epiphany by packing away the Christmas stuff?"
I'm beginning to suspect that this could lead to us having an Epiphany celebration followed, days later, by some sort of made-up household holiday, which I would then be accused of ruining by insisting we pack everything away. But if we didn't have the "holiday" and just tried to pack stuff away like normal people, there would be complaints about that!
Sigh. I can't win.
Yesterday's celebration of Epiphany was wonderful. And, yes, the tree, lights, and all the decorations are still up. Somewhat on the spur of the moment, we invited some new friends to join us for a mid-afternoon dinner. Only Daughter and I then rushed out to plan and shop for said dinner, and then dashed back home to prepare the simple feast. We set the tables and waited eagerly for our guests to arrive.
After dinner, the younger boys all went out to play and have mysterious boy adventures, while the rest of us sat by the fire, enjoyed good strong coffee, and opened our hearts to each other. I've been thinking a lot about Christian fellowship lately, and about what it means to be part of the Body of Christ. This was part of the theme of our conversation. One of the odd things about Christianity struck me during our wonderful visit. As followers of Christ, we can be wounded, suffering, grieving, discouraged --- and yet rejoicing at the same time. It all has to do with looking at Jesus, with sharing in His sufferings, with yielding to Him.
I wish I could say that I always did that. But I'm in awe of those who have every reason for bitterness, every reason to be angry, every reason to wallow in self-pity --- and yet do not fall prey to any of that.
My grandfather used to say that it was a good thing for every Christian to suffer heartbreak, that it was the only way for us to become compassionate.
I wish our walk with Jesus was not so fraught with pain. But I am thankful for a Savior Who came to bind up the broken-hearted, and I am thankful for friends in whose lives He shines forth.
And I am thankful for the Church, for His Body. Yesterday afternoon and evening was not an official "church meeting". But there were more than two or three of us, and we were gathered in His Name, and He was there. And it was wonderful.