Monday, January 7, 2013

Epiphany/El Dia de los Tres Reyes Magos: Shine On

Damarius is there waiting for me when I arrive, ready to help me set up and get everything ready,sweeping the steps to make the way clear. Cara is not far behind.
Today we are celebrating Epiphany...and for our congregation, el Dia De Los Tres Reyes Magos. 
I start the service by playing the Bruce Cockburn arrangement of Early on One Christmas Morn...

Three wise men saw the star at night
Star that lit the heavens so bright
Star that led them to where Christ was born
Early on one Christmas morn

In that city of Bethlehem
Wise men brought Him jewels and gems
Born in a manger humble and low
That is why we love Him so 

And of course we sing We Three Kings of Orient Are...John R asks which verse goes with which king... I mention that by tradition they were Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar...and one time in my cousin’s family when there weren’t enough verses to go around my youngest cousin said And I’ll be Orientar....

Growing up, our proper protestant Presbyterian church didn’t make much of Epiphany. I first really experienced it it  New Haven, while I was in seminary, working for an Episcopalian church because there was no downtown Presbyterian church. I came back from my Christmas vacation to experience a beautiful candle lit service. 

When I came here, I was happy to find that it was a tradition here...the celebration of Los Tres Reyes Magos....the Three Kings....the major cultural Christmas day for Puerto Rican  and other Latinos. It was the kings whi brought the gifts. I find the creeping Santa Clausification of Christmas around the world a bit like cultural imperialism. Give us our tres reyes magos...

We’ve had big years and small years, years with processions and children and fully costumed Kings...

During our years of exile at SPSA, we brought our celebration to them. 

So what exactly is epiphany?
The dictionary gives us three meanings:
1. A revelatory manifestation of a divine being.
2.  A sudden manifestation of the essence or meaning of something.
3. A comprehension or perception of reality by means of a sudden intuitive realization: 
It’s roots come  from the Greek epiphaneia, manifestation, from epiphainesthai, to appear : epi-, forth; see epi- + phainein, phan-, to show

So I guess it’s kind of show and tell? Or is it more  like show and get it? What’s being shown? What do we get?

So what do we have here ?
a star
a mother, father and baby in a house (not a stable)
wise men from the east
an angry king
gold, frankincense and myrrh

So what does it add up to? What do we get immediately from this scene?

The star:  it has cosmic significance
The wise men: this new born king isn’t just for the children of Israel, but ALL people
This one will be upsetting to the political and religious authorities, because he will reveal their own illegitimacy
And the addition of myrrh  tells us there will be suffering
(Matthew always has the whole gospel story in any part of the gospel 

BUT most of all this is about LIGHT....Epiphany ushers in a season of the magi we bring gifts....we bring our own LIGHT....could we truly celebrate a season of LIGHT....could we declare this a  year of LIGHT....what is your light?

While we take up the offering, I play Emmy Lou Harris singing Beautiful Star of Bethlehem

...Oh Beautiful Star the hope of rest 
For the redeemed the good and blessed 
Yonder in glory when the crown is won 
Jesus is now the star divine 
Brighter and brighter he will shine 
Oh Beautiful Star of Bethlehem shine on (shine on).....

Before we share our communion, I share my story of the Christmas trees...and we finish with This Little Light of Mine, I’m Gonna Let it Shine...

They brought a feast

Then we head up to Mc Alpin for our celebration. The Santiago family has prepared a feast. Others have brought fruit to share, including grapes (eat 12) for good luck. And Arcadia has brought a rosca de reyes, a Mexican kings’ bread with several little baby Jesuses embedded in the bread. Whoever gets one is responsible to throw a party or bring a treat. Especially before Candelaria, the feast of the presentation...

Arcadia explains the rosca

Don finds the first Baby Jesus
We share stories of our traditional holiday celebrations in our own countries. Nirka in Cuba waiting anxiously to see if the Kings had come, others dinners after midnight mass. And then Arcadia cuts the rosca....and Don gets the first baby Jesus.  

Bobby walks in for the first time in months. Looking amazingly well. Living in a new place, regular services. 

We finish with an update on where we are in our building process. Still tenuous. Much in the air. No real resolution yet. Bobby occasionally commenting, usually on target. We look at our circle. Jamie shakes her head, smiles a warm smile and says That’s West-Park.... And so it is....

...shine on....

and to our friends in Russia...
Счастливого Рождества

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