The tree, the decorations, the Christmas cards are about to come down. Christmas is pretty much done and dusted, we’ve done with the visiting and the hospitality, we’ve put away the twiglets and the pickles. There are hot cross buns and crème eggs in the supermarkets. And here come the three kings – what’s left to celebrate? They’re too late.. aren’t they?

Again, the faith calendar calls us to take another look at time as we enter the season of Epiphany, a sub-set of the Christmas season. Not just a day of celebration, but a season of wondering and journeying.

An inheritance from the Eastern Christian tradition, Epiphany is a multi-layered season, of showing, manifestation, revealing the child of Nazareth who becomes the Jesus of faith. With the stories of birth and strange foreign visitors, baptism by the wild prophet John, a wedding feast rescued from disaster, the calling of a mixed band of followers, the season takes time to light up the whole of Jesus’ life and calling.

The star shines and the call of the light is to all.

There is a legend that says that the three wise men were of three different ages. Caspar was a very young man, Balthazar was in his middle age and Melchior was an old man. They arrived at Bethlehem, at the place of the child’s birth, and they enter one at a time. Melchior, the old man, enters and is surprised to see no one there but a very old man his own age, with whom he is quickly at home. They speak together of remembrance and of gratitude. The middle-aged Balthazar enters and meets a middle-aged teacher, and they talk passionately of leadership and responsibility. And when young Caspar enters, he finds a young prophet and they share words of reform and promise. Then the three take their gifts and enter the place of birth together. And when they go in together to their surprise there is nobody there except a 12 day-old infant. The saviour speaks to every stage of life. The old hear the call to integrity and wisdom. The middle-aged hear the call to transition and responsibility. And the young hear the call to identity and intimacy.

This is the time to look, to look and to see again.

And this is the time for the panto (oh yes it is!) which is a tradition to help us see things again in a very different light. Behind the stage make-up, behind the rags and the glitter, behind the apron and the ball gown – who is that – male or female, a beggar or a prince, a servant or a genie. Is this comedy, drama or tragedy? Years ago we worshipped in a church whose ecumenical community (Anglicans and Roman Catholics) came together to present and perform an annual pantomime. To do this the whole building had to be turned around, to create a stage and audience area. This meant that every year the Feast of Epiphany was celebrated on the stage, with the church seating turned around. It seemed a very fitting way to celebrate the beginning of this season of transformation.

Chance again to look again at gifts – given and received, and notice the real gifts of every day, every moment, gifts sometimes discounted, gifts closer than we imagined, gifts for every stage of life around us.

Here is a poem by Alan Horner, who was a Methodist minister and once chaplain to the ecumenical Living Spirituality Network:

Twelfth Night

Now is the ebbing, now:

the cards collapse;

the bald tree lies shorn of baubles;

the lights laid low in their unbright box;

candles are cold; figures

no longer in focus return to rest.

Only the gifts remain.

The angels are ‘gone away’;

the shepherds ‘returned’;

the Magi ‘departed another way’;

and Joseph with Mary fled.

She must not mind, but mind

her son, pondering these things.

Only this gift remains.

Last year I offered the gift of a star word to accompany you through 2014. I wonder what became of the word – that chose you. I wonder what gift you received? I offer this to you again, today. The idea is to take an Epiphany star word and put it somewhere you can see it every day. Ponder it, pray with it and allow it to unfold, to reveal itself to you as guide and teacher. Perhaps over the year we can talk to one another about our journey with our companion word. This year I also invite you to write on a star a gift to transform the world around you and a gift you would like to recognise anew in yourself. We will place these star prayers near the crib.

May the Epiphany star of love show us the gift we have to offer, making our lives new again.

Based on words by Ian Fraser in ‘Going Home Another Way’ edited by Neil Paynter

Epiphany star words.

Epiphany star words.

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