“You are such a liturgical nerd.”
Yes, I am! I’ll claim that one. On New Year’s Day, with the Rose Parade on TV in the background, we “de-Christmased” the indoors. Tree down, mantle back to normal, parade of tin angels paraded back into their box until next year, and so forth. That just left the outdoors.
My husband asked, “When do you want to take down the nativity outside?”
“We can’t until Epiphany, January 6.”
While stores have turned the twelve days of Christmas into day after day of sales leading up to December 25, the twelve days of Christmas actually follow December 25, figuratively representing the amount of time it took the magi to travel to Bethlehem and present their gifts to the Christ child. They were most generous with gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
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.” (Matthew 2:1-2 NRSV)
The birth of a baby is a great gift giving occasion. Parents are in need of many things, not the least of which is support. Recently I took two meals to friends who are new parents, plus a gift card for a pedi for mom to get away for some self-care when she needs it. These parents do not have extended family here so they are on their own if not for their friends.
Major life events warrant connection with friends and family, plus offers of support and encouragement. At times in the special needs community, those outside the family are not sure how to reach out in a meaningful way. Dr. Matt Stanford, my new executive director at The Hope and Healing Institute, has a particular passion for connecting the church with those struggling with mental health issues. He refers to mental illness as the “no casserole diagnosis.” For some diagnoses there is an outpouring of compassion and assistance, cancer comes to mind. For other diagnoses, not so much. As with many special needs diagnoses, friends and even family are sometimes unsure how to respond. Sadly, for many families the response they receive is isolation rather than connection, silence rather than understanding.
What would it look like to embrace special needs families at the birth of their child, or time of diagnosis? What are the equivalents of gold, frankincense and myrrh to these families? The magi knew instinctively the right gifts for Christ: gold for a king, frankincense for Jesus’ priestly role, and myrrh for his role as a healer. What do today’s parents need? The priceless gift of time is as valuable as gold. The spiritual gift of prayer strengthens families. Finally, the healing power of a listening ear renews a weary mind.
As a special needs parent, in what meaningful way have others reached out to you?
Giving God, thank you for the gift of Christ. Thank you for the giving hearts of our friends and families who support us when we need it most. Amen.