“We three kings of Orient Are.” Those were the words my twin brother and I were to sing as we headed up the central aisle of our church. We were joined by Larry who was 11 and two years older than my brother and I. He was also taller and so was “in charge.” Bill and I were not happy that we had been pressed into service. Christmas was over! We would be back in class at Court Street School tomorrow. Why should we have to sing a Christmas song now? A brand new Daisy BB gun had a place of honor beside my bed and Bill had his similarly stowed. We were honing our accuracy on cans lined up on the fence behind the barn. We had a better place to be and better things to do. But Mom had said, “The whole congregation is expecting you. You have practiced and it is Epiphany Sunday.” We knew that when Mom took that tone the conversation was over.
That was almost 65 years ago and I am amazed at the fact that it is still in my memory. The following morning my brother and I got on the bus for school. We lived almost to the end of the line and so there were others to pick up along the way. Ron, John and Dave would become close friends throughout grade school, junior high and high school. I was surprised on this first day back from Christmas break to be asked what “Epiphany” was. We had been swapping stories about how Christmas break had gone and Bill and I were still disgruntled about having to sing in church. Ron and Dave belonged to different churches and John did not do the church thing at all. What followed was to prove to be one of the most important and educational discussions of my youth. It was a discussion of what we believed. As a 9-year-old boy I had no real idea what I believed. Bill, Ron and Dave had no more an idea than I had. It was an awkward conversation at first but it would last throughout time together. We hunted, fished and worked together. We developed our belief systems. Each of us for ourselves and all different. Our religious affiliations were all different; Episcopalian, Baptist, Congregationalist and none at all. The differences between our beliefs were never a basis for separation or conflict. Some of us would become Republicans, some Democrats, Independents, and some none at all. Still we remain friends connected by belonging to each other over the years.
To have an “Epiphany Moment” often means that we have had a sudden realization of a truth that has heretofore been hidden from us. How is it that we become so wedded to what we believe that we cut ourselves off from others who believe differently? Is believing the same thing as belonging? I hope not. If I cannot love my neighbor despite his or her beliefs I will be a lonely person indeed.
Epiphany is that time when we recognize that this new baby whose birth we celebrate is the author of Creation. He became man and actually lived within the creation he created and made himself known to us that we should: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. And, that you shall Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22.)
Father Jim Mosier is the retired rector at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Ontario. He can be reached in care of The Argus Observer, 1160 S.W. Fourth St., Ontario, OR 97914. The Argus Observer weekly faith column features a rotation of writers from many different faiths and perspectives.