Welcome One Another

“Welcome one another, and abound in hope!”

That was the theme for our Epiphany Celebration at Oranbega this week.

We began with a Tea Ceremony, based on a traditional Japanese gesture of hospitality which emphasizes the beauty to be found in the ordinary acts of daily life. Our tea ceremony was a tasting, choosing several different brews from an array of different teas from India: blacks, greens, oolongs, tisanes and chai. We sipped, we appreciated the sharp and subtle differences between the brews, and we reflected on the quiet and gentle refreshment offered by the act of taking tea with a friend. As tea ceremonies of the British variety are very much a part of my background, this felt like a natural and comfortable way of welcoming people to Oranbega.  And it was so much fun, we will certainly do it again.

We then had an hour for silent prayer and reflection, followed by zooming into an evening worship service led by some of our friends at St. Luke’s episcopal cathedral in Portland. Supper followed, with a beef stew from Chef Spence that one participant said was the best she had ever tasted— then suited her actions to her words by consuming two helpings and taking another home.  We also had a piquant salad of pears and cranberry, and for dessert, my very own Christmas Pudding, made to an ancient recipe handed down to me by my English mother and grandmother. The Sherry Custard Sauce accompanying it was also a great success. More prayers and reflection time followed, and we ended the evening with the beautiful Episcopal service of Compline.

It was all about Epiphany, which is the last day of Christmas, and at the same time the beginning of a season that lasts until the beginning of February. Epiphany is a word that means revelation—the aha! moment. The aha! is that a child born into poverty, yet born of God,  is greater than any King or authority or mortal power. The aha! Is the discovery of that one small light can be greater than all the darkness that surrounds us. The aha! Is the birth of hope beyond hope, and of love beyond death. The aha! of the Day of Epiphany came to three travelers, Kings, magicians, astronomers, open minded seekers who traveled a long way following a star, searching for the truth. What they found was more mystery, what William Butler Yeats in his great poem The Magi called, “the uncontrollable mystery on the bestial floor.”

The season of Epiphany is all about the mystery of God’s love revealing itself not just to a chosen few or to the especially religious or to elites of any kind, but to all. As my favorite singer-song writer Bruce Cockburn puts it, “For it isn’t to the palace that the Christ child comes/ But to shepherds and street people, hookers and bums.” When we make all people welcome, we are welcomed ourselves into the eternal mystery of love.

Epiphany is a season to welcome each other, and to abound in hope, even though with the pandemic and the politics we have, hope seems difficult to keep alive. We keep it alive by gathering when and how we can, to appreciate the taste of things, to share our stories, and to tell jokes too.  Like these:

“Gold, Frankincense, and, wait, there’s Myrhh.”

“Fresh diapers. Casseroles for the week. Lots of formula. After the Three Wise Men left, the Three Wiser Women arrived.”

So, wherever and whoever you are, have some fun welcoming the lengthening days this season of the New Year. Read poetry, play music, tell jokes, cook up something delicious. Best of all, tell someone that you love them.  Of course, they should know it without you having to say it, but say it anyway. It might be for them a revelation, an epiphany, and a very welcome word of hope.