Celebrating the Gift

From Judy Horton:

Last night we celebrated Epiphany, the feast commemorating the arrival of the Three Kings at the manger in Bethlehem.  It’s not much noted in society at large but our Ranchers can tell you exactly what it’s about.

It marks the end of Christmas and the return to normal life, or as the church calls it, “Ordinary Time.”  In Latin America friends get together, bake a rosca, or Three Kings cake, and bury a tiny Christ child in it.  Whoever bites into the baby Jesus is the host for a party February 2.

We, however, determined that the lucky soul finding the Christ child will host the Super Bowl party. It may not be exactly kosher by anyone’s standards, but it’s a big motivator for the Ranchers and they start asking me about the Epiphany party right after Christmas.

As Craig and I stirred the hot chocolate and cut the cake in the Pavilion kitchen last night Michael and Brian arrived first.  Michael has had uncanny luck in the past at this festival and is sure he will find the baby Jesus this year.  I remind him there are a lot more of us these days and his chances are less.  But he is certain.

The others arrive.  We gather in the front rooms, draw names for the three costumed Kings/Queens/Wise People to lead our procession, dress them up in our meagre stock of costumes (mostly consisting of old draperies) and give them their gifts to carry.

Everybody else carries a real, lit candle.  We darken the Pavilion and begin our march toward the dining room singing We Three Kings.  We get there and Terry reads the passage from Matthew that tells the story.  I explain the importance to Ranchers and staff assembled, that the feast is important because it’s when the Word is published and made available to the whole world.

We close with Silent Night and shift to the raucous part of the evening.  It takes a while for the Christ child to be found and the world quickly spreads: it’s Jim!

Jim, quiet and reticent, was smiling from ear to ear. This is as emotive as Jim gets.  I could tell he was enormously, hugely tickled.

For Jim.

I told him he’d have a budget and we would work with him to put on the party, but he is the host!

As I drove back to Austin in the freezing night, I pondered how my life turned out that in my 70s, I would be surrounded by these dozens of good people for the Feast of Epiphany.  For the first half of my life I was barely aware of anything beyond Easter or Christmas and I was not aware at all of people with intellectual disabilities.

But then came Kelly, and new life, and with it, new faith, when one Sunday morning my (supposedly) atheist husband wandered into the bedroom with a cup of coffee and said, “Hey, let’s go to that little Episcopal church on airport.”

We did.