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Today, January 6 is Epiphany.  My favorite holiday in the liturgical year.  Last year the Diocese of Albany invited me to write an article for their paper talking about our family’s tradition of a Pesebre, which is a nativity scene.  It’s a Colombian tradition, with roots in Catholicism.  If you’d like to read that article, it’s here at this link.

Epiphany marks the end of the 12 days of Christmas, it is the day when we remember the visitation of the three wise men to the baby Jesus and his family:

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet: ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.’” Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.”

When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.
-Matthew 2

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The images shared in this blog post is taken from our home, from last night.  We lovingly moved the three wise men from their spot lower on the Pesebre to the place of greatest honor, near the baby Jesus and his family.  The animals are now all huddled in close.  The visitors are there with their gifts.  The scene is complete.  In our tradition, we will share one final time of prayer and reflection as a family around the Pesebre on Wednesday night.  

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I love Epiphany because it is a reminder that everything in life is a gift from God.  The baby Jesus and his promise of salvation is a gift.  The faith of Mary and the love of Joseph is a gift.  The warm breath of animals keeping the air warm is a gift.  The place of safety to give birth and nurse a child is a gift.  The presence of visitors is not just a gift but an affirmation to a young mother that she is in the midst of something special and holy.  Imagine how it must have felt for Mary to receive these guests and how much it must have fed her spirit to have this visit!  

Affirmations of love and gifts that are the reminders of God’s grace and love are sorely needed these days.  The narrative of our culture is one of doom and gloom and addiction to violence and war.  Epiphany reminds us of the opposite, that abundance is around us, that we are accompanied in our journey by others who we might not even know or imagine, and that celebration of life and the promise of God’s grace-filled love is ever present.  Epiphany is about hope and the promise of friendship.  We are not alone!  And that is our Epiphany gift to share!

There is a tradition in many congregations of receiving a star-word for Epiphany.  The last congregation I served had this as a tradition and I have friends who send me star-words each year.  The word printed on your star is meant to be the guiding insight for the next year of your life as you live out your ministry wherever God has planted you.  If are you not already doing this tradition in your congregation, plan to begin it in a year!  At the last congregation I served, when I would visit members in their homes or places of work, I would often find their star word in their cubicle at work, or on the rear-view mirror in their car, or dangling from the light above the dining room table, or taped to a cabinet in a kitchen.  It’s a powerful way to keep Epiphany with you all year-round.

The word I received this year is servanthood.  

Star Word

My journey of the next 12 months will be to walk with God as I live into my word for the year.  This is my Epiphany gift.  

What word will you use to guide you in this new year of ministry?  

What gifts is God offering you?  

What unexpected visitors are coming to where you are to bring you something unexpected?  

It remains my great honor to engage in servant-leadership with this Presbytery!

Happy Epiphany!  

P.S.  We don’t take our Pesebre down until at least Valentine’s Day.  We are against the “rushing of the season” in the Ocampo household!  🙂

About Rev. Shannan Vance-Ocampo

Shannan grew up between the Jersey Shore and Philadelphia and have also lived at various points in Ohio, Illinois, New Jersey and upstate New York. Internationally, I have lived in Scotland, Greece and Colombia. My family is transnational, my husband is an immigrant and we divide our time between the United States and Colombia. You can learn more about Shannan at: https://srvoconsulting.com

The purpose of the Albany Presbytery Blog is to share information, tell stories, and promote the mission and ministry of the presbytery, synod and beyond. While the breadth of this medium is intentionally broad, it is not a platform for opinion pieces related to business coming before the presbytery unless designed as part of an initiative to provide a diversity of viewpoints at the direction of the presbytery. Exceptions to this policy may be brought to the presbytery officers who will determine appropriateness of submissions.