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Epiphany begins with "thanks"

The Magi

Today, the Feast of the Epiphany, commemorates the gifts given to the infant king by the Three Wise Men. They came a long way to leave their gifts – and they returned with a gift they hadn’t expected, and probably didn’t want – at least not at first. The gift they took away was contained in what they saw. Seeing a baby was not all that remarkable, but what they saw within the baby changed their lives. As described in the poem Journey of the Magi by T. S. Eliot, they went home – but everything was different: “we returned to our places, these kingdoms, but no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation, with an alien people clutching their gods.”

Their lives had changed, but their world had not. And their first prayer may well have been “help.” Help not so much to escape Herod’s vengeance, which they did; but help to live with their newfound faith in a culture that could not begin to understand it.

The Magi needed help. We need help – either with the task of deepening our faith, or with bringing our faith into a world that seems increasingly indifferent to that faith, or with the challenges of life that threaten to chew away at our faith.

Anne Lamott boils all prayer down to help, thanks and wow. It is the title of her book -- Help Thanks Wow, which I am inviting people to read with me during this season of Epiphany. It is not a long book – 100 pages, and we have five weeks to get through it. I will be offering updated reflections on her book two or three times a week.

I have invited the diocese to engage in the spiritual discipline of gratitude during this Epiphany season. No doubt we will need help with that; gratitude does not always come easily. And there may be moments during this season of the manifestation of God’s glory (which is what Epiphany means) when all we will be able to say is “wow;” when God’s presence shows up in life transforming ways.

But thanks is where Epiphany begins for me. The gold, frankincense and myrrh are given with gratitude – gratitude for Jesus’ arrival. I give thanks for their gratitude – and for Anne Lamott’s description of prayer: “Prayer is private, even when we pray with others. It is communication from the heart to that which surpasses understanding.” (Page 1.) “Prayer is taking a chance that against all odds and past history, we are loved and chosen, and do not have to get it together before we show up.” (Pages 5-6.)

She makes it simple. Prayer may not always be easy, but it is simple. I am grateful for that.

Join me in reading and discussing Anne Lamott's new book, Help Thanks Wow: The Three Essential Prayers, during the season of Epiphany & Gratitude (January 6 - February 12, 2013).


What a wonderful idea. Interestingly, I had the T.S. Eliot poem read at our services this weekend. How true that while the magi were changed by the encounter with the the living God, they returned to a world that was not changed. If ok with you, I will invite people in our congregation to read your blog. Yes, often the journey is a long one before we can arrive at a time we can finally say, "Wow" when God's presence shows up in life transforming ways. I look forward to the journey through Epiphany with thanks. Thank you. Glad McCurtain, St. John's, Clearwater, FL

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