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Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Epiphany 2014

Yesterday evening I sat my family down on the floor in our living room, as I have on January 6 each year for the past two. This year my wife knew what was going on (I got her help selecting the gifts!) but my two kids didn't know at first. "Today's a special holiday..." I started, and my 13-year-old son jumped in: "Oh, it's Three Kings Day!" Right he was! And his sudden understanding, appropriately, was an "epiphany" which is the other name for the day. Mostly for my 6-year-old daughter's sake (she's little, so she's going to need to full spiel for at least the next couple of years) but also for my son and wife's sake, I explained again this year that Epiphany or Three Kings Day is a day the traditional church celebrates the arrival of the Magi with gifts for the baby Jesus. I also explained something that hadn't really clicked with me until this year: the Wise Men are the first recorded Gentiles to come to Jesus. The holiday is called "Epiphany" because an epiphany is a revelation, and the arrival of the Wise Men was a revelation that Jesus was for everyone, not just for the Jews. How awesome is that?

My own tradition for the past few years has been to secretly purchase an inexpensive gift ($20 is about the max I spend on each gift) for each family member that I hope will inspire them to think about God more, or learn something about the Bible, or whatever. You can see examples of what I got them in the past two years here and here. The trick is to pick something that will truly speak to the heart of each person. This year was even more special because I invited my wife to pick the gifts for the kids with me. She was an awesome help! Frankly, I'm not sure I would have made the best choice for our daughter without her.

My little girl opened that gift first. My wife and I had spent a significant amount of time searching and searching through the stuff in the children's section at the Christian bookstore the Saturday before, trying to decide whether to get her a "real" Bible, some kind of Bible story book, or something else. We finally settled on a book called Princess Stories: Real Bible Stories of God's Princesses which is a book of Bible stories specifically of women and girls, told from their perspective. The artwork is very warm and inviting, and the stories are designed to give little girls characters from the Bible that they can think about and look up to. (Not many of them are technically royalty, but the point is that as daughters of The King, every girl and woman who comes to Jesus is a real live princess!) As a bonus, there is either a kitten, a puppy, or a bunny on nearly every page (on some pages you have to settle for a bird or butterfly, but that's OK.) My daughter was so excited to start hearing the stories that she didn't want to wait for bedtime to hear one! She begged to hear the one about the Bible character who has her same name... "Look, my name is right in the book!" she said. I think that counts as a successful choice!

Next, my son opened his gift. Since he is a newly-minted teenager, we thought we would give him something to help him really get a grasp on the "big picture" of the Word of God. I'd seen the "The Story" items when they came out a year or so ago, and I found the idea of formatting the Bible's grand narrative like a modern novel very interesting. The Bible can be so intimidating... it's long, things don't come in the right order, and most people barely know about what happens in a huge hunk of it. "The Story" is a whole series of books and materials focused for specific age groups - there is a The Story for adults, the Teen version we got my son, and even storybook-style versions for grade schoolers and preschoolers. The grander idea is that a church can launch a program where each age group studies the same section of their own The Story edition (there are 31 divisions in each book) every week, and the whole church learns the basics of the whole Bible together. Our church isn't doing the larger program, but hopefully my son will get interested in it using his own copy. He's actually a pretty big reader (when he's not playing one video game or another!) and he was surprisingly enthusiastic when he realized what he was holding. He was actually more excited than I thought he would be. He's a great kid! And my wife is actually so intrigued with the concept that we'll be getting the e-book (adult edition) for her to put on her cell phone so she can read through it as well.

(On a side note, at this writing is running a big promotion of "The Story", and they have the materials on deep discount. For example, the $20 adult edition of "The Story" is on sale for $5! Check the sale out at their "What Is The Story?" page.)

My wife had forgotten that she always gets a gift too... when I pulled out the gift I got her, she seemed embarrassed that she hadn't thought to get me something! I don't care whether I get a gift or not, but I suspect I will next year! I had gotten her The Duck Commander Devotional, a one-year devotional book written by the stars of the Duck Dynasty TV show, which she is a HUGE fan of. (I got her the girly pink one, of course, but there is a version with a green cover for the studly man in your life.) She was so excited that she almost decided to read the first six entries right away to catch up! I told her it was OK to wait and read those first few entries next January!

My daughter was so pumped about our Epiphany gifts that she immediately decreed that I should have one too, and she got out her art supplies and proceeded to make me the crown you see below. I was actually kind of surprised when she did the whole thing herself over the course of maybe 20-30 minutes, including designing the crown, cutting out all of the pieces, and gluing it all together! The end result is terrific! It's a little small for my big Daddy head, but it fits pretty well on one of my stuffed doggies at work. It will definitely be treasured for years to come!

Make a habit of watching this blog for the next year. Come late December, I'll be reminding my readers that Epiphany is coming up. It's a tradition that has been very meaningful for my family, and I have no intention of ever not doing it. (Heck, when my kids grow up and have their own families, they may be surprised to find something in their mailboxes on January 6!) And even though it's January 7, it's not too late to follow my lead! Stop by the Christian bookstore and pick up some little thing... a bookmark, a toy Bob the Tomato, a music CD. Something to encourage a loved one to draw closer to Christ. It's never a bad day to have the epiphany that Jesus Christ is a gift personally given to you!

My Epiphany crown. And, before you ask: YES, it is
right side up. (She corrected me when I turned it over.)

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