Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Season of Epiphany

We are almost halfway through the Season of Epiphany. Have you been wondering what Epiphany is all about? Below I have re-posted a description of the season from last year as a little reminder. Enjoy!

Our Magi material from the True Vine Atrium

Epiphany began on January 6th with the celebration of Jesus' surprising visit from the Magi. With these mysterious visitors from afar came the realization that Jesus was born to reveal God's love to the entire world, not just the faithful community that awaited him. Jesus is a light to enlighten the nations! My beautiful new Epiphany star and all of the candles we have been lighting at our house are good reminders of the light of Jesus and our call to follow!

The season of Epiphany continues for four to nine weeks, depending upon the date of Easter. This year, Epiphany ends on February 22nd**, when we begin our preparation for Easter with Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent.  I'm sure you've noticed that in Epiphany, green returns to the sanctuary!  We have green hangings from the pulpit and lectern, a green dossal curtain (left), and a green stole and chasuble for Rev. Peter.

In the atrium, we often call this season "Growing Time," because in it we can grow into all of the wonderful discoveries we made in the rich and exciting seasons of Advent and Christmas. We also grow in our ministries and mission - getting on with the work we have been called to do.  We hear the scriptural accounts of Jesus beginning his ministry, calling his disciples, and teaching his people about the Kingdom of God.  Through the stories Jesus tells and through the many miracles he performs, Jesus teaches those who follow the good news of what life is like in God's Kingdom.

Epiphany is growing time!  For Jesus, there were people to heal and feed, unjust boundaries to break, and parables to teach. What is God calling you to this Epiphany?

** Ash Wednesday is on February 22, 2012 this year. I changed the date in the post above to reflect the current calendar. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Epiphany Celebration

In past years we have combined the lower two atria for a Christmas celebration on our first Sunday back after the holiday break. It is a lovely celebration - you can learn more about it and see photos from last year's celebration here. This year, we decided to have the Good Shepherd children celebrate Christmas on their own. Instead of taking the older children downstairs to join them, we held an informal celebration of Epiphany in the True Vine Atrium this year.

While the children were familiar with the scriptural account of the Wise Men's visit to Jesus, they hadn't yet learned about the feast of Epiphany. Because the feast is always celebrated on a specific date (January 6th) it seldom occurs on a Sunday and has usually already passed by the time we return to atrium after break.

This year I thought I would clarify the fact that the season of Christmas is always celebrated for 12 days, and it ends with the coming of the Wise Men at the feast of Epiphany on January 6th. To celebrate this special day, I wanted to get a star shaped candle holder like one that we have had and enjoyed in the Good Shepherd Atrium for several years. I found the star lantern to the right at Pier One, and bought the stand separately so that we could hang it. I have to admit that finding something beautiful that compliments our work in atrium is one of the special joys of being a catechist! The children loved it!

Before our celebration, we spent some time talking about the liturgical calendar and some of the details of the 12 days of Christmas and the feast of Epiphany that you can't see when looking at our calendar material. We had a beautiful procession, led by a child carrying our new star, as we sang "We Three Kings" together. Then we changed our prayer table cloth from blue (we hadn't been together since Advent) to white in honor of the feast day of Epiphany.

Once we were all gathered, and our star candle was lit, I presented the scripture reading of the Wise Men visiting Jesus, using the figures and environment that we have for this work (pictured). Afterward we had a very rich conversation about the Wise Men's visit.

I think this will be a new tradition in the True Vine Atrium, and we may add some additional parts to it in years to come. The children were definitely ready to celebrate the feast of Epiphany, and this little gathering seemed to be satisfying to all of us.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Baptism of Our Lord

The Jordan River

In honor of the feast of the Baptism of our Lord, I've been flipping through my pilgrimage photos and thought I would post a few here.

Along the banks of the Jordan.
We visited Yardenit, a baptismal site along the Jordan River. Today, the Jordan River is generally very small, and much of the water that once flowed through it is now siphoned off for other uses. But at Yardenit, the river is a good size and very beautiful.

On the day we visited, Yardenit was busy - crowds of people, lots of baptisms, and many things for sale. I had been looking forward to spending time at the Jordan, but this felt a bit too commercial and I was turned off by it.

Mark 1:9-11 is written in many languages around the site.

In the midst of the crowds, Mary Jo read us the scriptural account of Jesus' baptism from Mark, and we wandered along the river. Anthony found a very quiet spot and we went down a little flight of stairs and put our feet into the water.

I can't explain it, but the experience suddenly became very intimate, as if we were the only people there. Our priests blessed us and I could feel the presence of the Holy Spirit as we splashed in the water and laughed together. It was one of those holy moments that you don't see coming! As a result, I have very fond memories of our trip to the Jordan and still feel blessed by it!

The sunset was breathtaking as we left Yardenit that evening.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Eve of the Epiphany!

Happy Twelfth Night! Throughout the Christmas season I've wanted to make a nature nativity which I learned about on my friend Sheila's wonderful blog, Explore and Express. Just in the nick of time, my daughter and I made one today and I am enjoying it so much! You can check out this link to learn how to make a nature nativity of your own! It is a great project for children, and Sheila has some beautiful photos of nature nativity scenes made by the children in her Advent Club. With the addition of Wise Men (which could be taken from your nativity scene, or made from clothes pins or clay) it would be a lovely centerpiece for your table in the season ahead!

Tomorrow is Epiphany, when we remember the Wise Men's visit to the baby Jesus. In December in the True Vine Atrium when we celebrated Christmas, we laid out all of the materials for the Infancy Narratives and looked at them together. One of the themes that the children explored was the presence of the Holy Spirit. It was so wonderful to see the children's eyes light up as they talked about the star as the Holy Spirit at work. What a beautiful metaphor for our lives today as we seek to follow Jesus.

Light a candle at dinner tomorrow or just before bed, and read Matthew 2:1-12 as a family. Ponder the story together. I wonder how the Wise Men knew to follow that star? Do you think it was a difficult journey? What kept them going? I wonder how we might be like the Wise Men?

May the great star of Epiphany brighten your day tomorrow and lead you closer to Jesus in the season ahead!