St. George’s Celebrates Epiphany with FirePosted: January 16, 2012
By: Fr. Ryan M. Kocak
Friday, January the sixth is the end of one season, Christmas and the beginning of another, Epiphany. We begin the season of Christmas by receiving the gift of Christ, but we begin Epiphany with gift giving to the Christ. On January sixth we celebrate the Epiphany, when those three magi from a pagan land (some call wise men, others kings) follow the signs in the sky to a new-born king. Those outside the covenant community of Israel, come to worship the promised one of Israel. They come not only with praise, but with extravagant gifts befitting a great king.
During advent, I introduced a teaching entitled, “The Secret of the Gifts.” It’s an interactive lesson based on a children’s book by the same name. The teaching revolves around the question, “What was it like for these three magi to encounter the holy Christ child?” In the story, each one of those extravagant gifts (gold, frankincense, myrrh) is transformed into the core essence of their being. Each magi responds initially with denial, then acceptance, then attempt to flee from the christ child in shame of their transformed “gift”(their hidden sin). But each one is stopped by the angel Gabriel and told they must offer these gifts as well, for this is why this King was born. Each one surrenders their sin, their sorrow, their places of brokenness at the foot of the Christ child and walk away freed from its entanglement, weight, and power in their life.
At the end of the first two lessons (listen to the first lesson here), we wrote down what our particular “broken gifts” were on notecards. The sources of shame, sorrow, sin, unforgiveness … those ugly parts of our hearts that we hide with a shadow of cynicism, sarcasm, or emotional distance. After writing these down, we followed the motion of the wise men in laying these confessions down in a basket representing the Christ child.
And then came to this past Friday, January 6th. We had a common meal at our house, then went into the final lesson on “The Secret of the Gifts.” At the end of this lesson though, I introduced a new liturgy. There was three parts to it:
1- Fire : We held on to our confessions this time and took them outside to my deck, where we had a fire going. We then discussed how the Holy Spirit convicts us of these places in our hearts, how the Holy Spirit reveals the great victory of Christ over our sins, sorrows, and the sting of death, how the Holy Spirit refines us, and how we can be free from these entanglements by the power of the Holy Spirit. I began by “releasing” all those past confessions from previous weeks into the fire. Then we each threw in our latest confessions.
2- Fragrance: Then I had one of the youth take a pile of scented pinecones and throw them into the fire on top of our “confession notecards.” Smoke and smell erupted in the fire (Read 2 Cor 2:14-17 and Psalm 141:1-4). In the midst of our offering of these false ways, something beautiful to God was created. Our offering of these broken gifts become a sweet aroma to God and to those around us.
3- Food : Then I had one of the older ones among us pull out a metal stake for roasting marshmallows. On its end was a couple of large marshmallows… On top of our former sorrows, in the sweet fragrance of their offering to God, we feasted in freedom (Read Psalm 23 and Psalm 31).
It was a powerful and sacramental way to end a teaching series and transition between church seasons!