I found myself with my first grader at church this afternoon, for her choir practice. As it was scheduled to be later than usual, I arranged with my wife that we meet there on her way home, and drive back together. But, other things were going on. It is the eve of Epiphany, and the Magi are on their way to see the human manifestation of the son of God. To celebrate, the parish was having a pot luck supper. We had been unaware and other commitments suggested that we would not stay for that or the service afterwards.
Our church is suffering from a burst boiler in the area of its administrative offices, so rather than sit and wait there and freeze, I found myself a seat in the narthex (lobby) of the church, which was warm and even warmer for me as I sat by a heating vent.
As people passed me, they asked if I was early for the supper. I explained. “That’s a shame,” was the general reaction. I sent my wife a message explaining what was due to happen and that we may end up staying. By the time she arrived, that was fact. My daughter had already been decked in a king’s robe and was about to carry one of the cakes. The incense was flowing, and smelt sweet. I could not see any gold or myrrh.
I remembered the opening lines of T.S. Eliot’s poem, Journey of the Magi, which I had studied for English Literature as a teenager:
A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.
Fitting words, given the bitter cold that I had experienced as I walked around the grounds of Washington Cathedral.
In the hall adjacent to the narthex, the children-kings were about to proceed. “We three kings of Orient are…” they trilled. People had already started to eat. My wife arrived. “Looks like we’re staying,” she said as our daughter passed by in her purple robe.
It was a blessing. We got to speak to people whom we had known for years but had little time to greet except fleetingly since our return. “We need to have more opportunities to eat together,” one of our table partners said. Men arrived whom we had known as boys when we taught Sunday school: they were huge and had beards–magi-cal?
It was a double blessing. The chilli dinner I had cooked yesterday had been enough to give us a light supper tonight if needed. But, we were well provided for: shepherd’s pie (how apt); sauerkraut; chilli (even better than mine :-)); beef and chicken casseroles; pasta; Greek salad; marzipan cakes. Just to list a few items. The children scoured the tables to find gold coins that were laid on each one.
Each diner was given a star on which was written a word for the year: mine was ‘dance’.
Anything but a cold coming. Instead, much warmth and fellowship. Not that far from the events that were being celebrated.