Epiphany (January 6) is the traditional day to celebrate the arrival of the Wise Men (or the Magi, depending on who you're talking to about it) in Bethlehem. This year I learned another pretty exotic-sounding name for it: "Dreikönigsfest"! Well, last year I decided that this day, whether it happens to be Epiphany or Dreikönigsfest, would be a time that I found a small gift to give each family member that I thought would benefit them in their walk with Christ for the following year.
This year I started out with my little 5-year-old daughter. Months ago, probably last April or May, I discovered the book Heaven Is for Real and read it, and enjoyed it so much that I picked up the children's picture book version, Heaven Is for Real for Kids, from the library to share with her. She liked the picture book so much that ever since then she's been asking about getting the book from the library again! Today she got her own copy, and I wrote the following inside the cover: "The Bible says if we think about Heaven, it will give us courage! I Thessalonians 4:16-18". Of course, she's too little to know how to look up the Scripture verse yet... she can't even read the inscription (or the book) for herself yet. But one day she'll be able to, and then I hope it will mean something special to her.
For my son I got the brand new book, just released within the past month or two, from an author that he and I have both enjoyed in the past: Matt Mikalatos. If you read this blog often, you may have seen my review of one of his other books, Night of the Living Dead Christian, which is a total scream and which my son, who was eleven years old at the time, read multiple times (despite the fact that it is written for an adult audience, not elementary schoolers). Matt's new book, The Sword of Six Worlds, is a fantasy story Matt wrote for his own kids, and it is targeted at middle school/junior high readers. I wrote inside the front cover: "Know your sword. Use it with compassion. Hebrews 4:12". I actually haven't had a chance yet to read the entire book for myself... I came up with that based on some stuff I read about it online. I hope it's appropriate! Coming up with an actual physical copy of the book turned out to be kind of a challenge - I had to order it from Amazon and then wait until they had copies to ship me. I believe it's by the grace of God that Amazon got some copies in and shipped it just in time to get to me for this weekend. And I know it will be worth the trouble! My son grabbed it and immediately started reading. It even trumped the handheld video game console he got for Christmas! If that isn't a high recommendation for an author, I don't know what is!
My wife was a little bit tougher. There were some things this past year that were hard on her, particularly some things that were going on in the news and in politics, and I wanted her to remember that Jesus' desire was for her to live in peace. Specifically, I wanted to bring John 14:27 to her mind; in that verse Jesus characterizes his peace as a gift He gave to us, and I wanted my gift to her to reflect that gift to her from Jesus. Surprisingly, it was a little difficult to find a gift with that verse on it, but I finally found this glass plaque, which when we got it out was more beautiful (and even a bit larger!) than I expected. She seemed to really like it; she put it in a prominent place in our apartment so she (and all of us, as a matter of fact) will see it often.
You know what? I feel a little self-conscious about this blog post. I don't want it to seem like I'm tooting my own horn. In fact, if I wanted to do some horn tooting, I probably would have spent more money than I did and tried to make myself look like a big shot... if you click the links, you can see that each item, before shipping, cost me less than ten dollars. But what I did want to do is share something with you, friends who read these posts: I felt God telling me to do this very small thing to love my family, to be like a priest to them, to maybe give them a gentle nudge toward the light of Jesus. Maybe to give them an "epiphany" of some kind. The gift I wanted to share with you was the inspiration to maybe do something similar with your family. Hijack my Epiphany gift idea next year (or even this year... delayed a day or two!) if you like. A small gift, inexpensive but inspired by the Holy Spirit, can make an impact that will last all year.