Sunday, January 5, 2014

Gifts…

Starting with Black Friday and going on until the day after Christmas, it seems the holiday season is all about gift giving.  We spend a lot of time and money searching for the perfect gift.  Some of us spent too much time and too much money on gifts.  Others, tried to give gifts of love, or of service, or perhaps, they took the time to make handmade gifts.  I believe the ability to give good gifts is a gift in of itself.  I've never thought I had that gift.  Now, the holiday season is over, and I'm still thinking of gifts. I find that the best gifts cannot be purchased with money, and that the gift that is given from the heart means the very most.

 Tomorrow is Epiphany which occurs twelve days after Christmas.  For some in the world, Epiphany is a more important day on the Christian calendar than Christmas Day itself.    And yet, we rarely celebrate or acknowledge this day in the western world.  I seldom think of the importance of this day.  In fact, if I have the Christmas tree down, the wreath off the door, and the Nativity safely boxed up and put away twelve days after Christmas, then I pat myself on the back for getting my life and house back to normal in good timing after the holidays.

Today, I was reminded twice of the significance of the Epiphany.  First, I read on Facebook a posting written by a friend in Spain saying she had just seen the parade of the Three Kings.  Then, at church, we read scriptures about the significance of this day when the three wise men visited and brought gifts to Jesus.  We so often see our Nativity sets complete with shepherds and wise men that we forget that it required a length of time after the birth of Christ for the magi to find the newborn Jesus, and it required a journey that changed the direction the wise men would take after they encountered Him.

When I first read my friend's account of seeing the parade of the Three Kings in Spain, my mind went back to the classroom.  Every year on the first day back after the Christmas/Winter Break, I would have my freshmen and sophomores read a story by Sandra Cisneros called Three Wise Guys.  I love this story.  It is the story of a family from Mexico that now lives on the Texas side of river.  They received a very large box from a benefactor for Christmas.  The mama will not let them open the box until January 6, Three Kings Day.  There is much anticipation and speculation about the contents of the box that occurs before the day finally arrives when the box can be opened.

I will not tell you how the story turns out because I don't want to spoil it for you.  I did provide a link for you.  If you click on the title of the story in the paragraph above, you will be able to read the entire short story yourself.  It won't take long to read, but I think you will enjoy it.  I loved teaching this story for many reasons:
  • First, it was a story my classroom which was predominately filled with Hispanic students could connect with culturally and spiritually.
  • It is a story that is a delight to read because Sandra Cisneros' voice is clearly heard.  I love to read anything she writes.
  • It is a story about gifts.  Do we always appreciate them?  Do we understand the significance of the gift when it is given?
  • It is story about transcendence. 
In doing a bit of reading about the Epiphany, I found a poem written by T.S. Eliot entitled, Journey of the Magi.  I have provided a link to the poem where you can read it or listen to it being read by T.S. Eliot.

I love how Eliot speaks of the journey made by the magi in this poem, and how it was not a pleasant one, that they took.  I also love how he makes us ponder, along with him, the significance of the the encounter with what they found at the end of journey.  He speaks of no longer being content with the old dispensation.

And so, I begin the new year pondering the significance of the gifts with which I have been blessed.  Certainly, I have been given many.  I have a wonderful husband who showers me with material gifts and keeps me steady with his gift of emotional stability when I need it most.  I have a beautiful family.  One that has been fractured by grief.  One that needs time and grace to make the journey that we've been called to take into a land we never knew existed.  Mostly, as I begin this new year, I am grateful that I do not take this journey alone.  I have so many friends that give me encouragement along the way.  And, I have my faith.  That is the one great gift that I have been given.  

I have great plans for the new year.  I hope to see many of them accomplished.  I look forward to a new year filled with much joy and continued healing.  To my blogging friends, I say, Thank you for being on this journey with me.  You bring great joy to my life.  You have enriched my life more than I ever thought possible.  You are counted among the great gifts of my life.  

Since it is the first week of the new year, I do hope you won't find the greeting this video a bit too late.  I am sending it as my gift to you for Three Kings Day.  I do hope you enjoy watching it.  Happy New Year and Happy Three Kings Day!




If you have trouble opening the video from YouTube, go to:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VhiF-PD4E_c#t=10  I hope this link works.

P.S.  I hope you will indulge me in allowing me to post some very old news in the next few days or weeks.  I will recount our Christmas holiday which included a journey to Utah.  Stay tuned...

27 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the great reminders about Epiphany! I enjoyed the Sandra Cisneros story, the poem and also the video. As a new reader, I'm glad I found your blog!

Munir said...

I did not know about Epiphany until just now. Thanks for sharing. Hope that the New Year brings good things for you and your loved ones.

Jeanie said...

This is a wonderful piece, Sally -- and I appreciate the links. I do like Sissel a lot.

It is indeed a time to ponder the significance of gifts. Indeed,your family and husband are great gifts and the emotional stability is one of the greatest. How wise for you to know and understand this.

Happy New Year, my friend.

Linda Reeder said...

You are a gift to us, your readers, too. Thank you.

Linda Reeder said...

You are a gift to us, your readers, as well. Thank you.

Elizabeth Cutter said...

Lovely, from beginning to end. I have another Facebook friend, a retired Spanish teacher who is devoted to the idea of the Twelve Days of Christmas. Today she posted about how Spanish children eagerly await this day for their gifts and said, "If we in the USA had our gifts at the end of the 12 days of Christmas we could all enjoy the season. Here in the USA Dec. 26 brings awful Christmas discount sales and half the town is saying Christmas is over. People look at you like you're an idiot if you wish them a Merry Christmas after the 25th. I don't know how we in the USA can misunderstand the Christmas season so greatly." Thank you for a second message about savoring the Gift.

Arkansas Patti said...

Welcome back and thank you for the link to T.S. Eliot's reading of his poem. What a treat and a gift.

DJan said...

There is a peace and tranquility between the lines here, Sally. It makes me feel so happy to read this, to hear of your journey from fractured pain to the beginning of wholeness. You are a great gift to me, too. May love and happiness follow you throughout the new year. :-)

DJan said...

There is a peace and tranquility between the lines here, Sally. It makes me feel so happy to read this, to hear of your journey from fractured pain to the beginning of wholeness. You are a great gift to me, too. May love and happiness follow you throughout the new year. :-)

Jeanie said...

Your thoughts about gifts are very wise and I appreciate your reminder about the significance of the Epiphany. I am so glad you have the gift of people in your life that offer you so much love and encouragement.
I'm off to read the Cisneros story now.

Chatty Crone said...

You know what - I enjoy whatever you write about what has been laid upon your heart. Once Christmas is over we tend to forget it so fast - so I think this is wonderful how you wrote about what is really important. Love it. sandie

thisisme said...

This was a lovely post (but, then, all your posts are inspirational, Sally) to remind us about the importance of the Epiphany. I loved the Happy New Year video at the end. Thank you for sharing that with us all. You are a blessing to us too my friend. I wish you and your family a very happy and healthy new year, filled with many blessings. Take care and keep warm.

A Quiet Corner said...

Gifts from the heart should be given all year and yes, they can be material or intrinsic, in my humble opinion...:)JP

Joanne said...

Happy "Dia de los Tres Reyes!!!" and a very happy new year to you too Sally. I am dying to find out what happens in that story!
Blessings, Joanne

Kay said...

I agree that all your posts are gifts to us, Sally. You've shared your wisdom and taught us how to deal with pain. May your new year be filled with happiness and health.

Betsy Adams said...

I love Christmas --and we follow the Christian Year --which means we celebrate Epiphany. Did you know that the 'real' "Twelve Days of Christmas" are between Dec. 25-Jan. 6??? Most people don't... That why we keep on celebrating and keep our decorations up until Jan. 6... Love it!!!!!!

Gifts are fine --and I love giving them and receiving them. However, it can definitely be OVERDONE --with WAY too much money spent on gift-giving. Sometimes I think we have lost the true meaning of Christmas...

Hope you are feeling better.
Hugs,
Betsy

Maggie May said...

The wise men didn't visit Jesus at the same time as the shepherds. They came when he was older. That's why Herod killed all the baby boys in Bethlehem to the age of two, trying to kill him too.

Epiphany is a big event in many countries, such as Spain.
You always write a lovely piece about whatever subject you are posting.
You have many gifts and I'm glad that you have lots of things to look forward to this coming year.
Maggie x

Nuts in May

Rose said...

I think Christmas has become too much about gift-giving and worrying whether we have chosen something the recipient will like, rather than focusing on the thought behind it. I've often thought that giving handmade gifts would be so much more meaningful, though my children roll their eyes at that suggestion, especially since none of us are very skilled at crafts:)

Thanks for the link to Sandra Cisnero's story--I've always enjoyed her writing, too, and will read it later.

Wishing you all the best in 2014!

Linda P. said...

Thank you for the link to the story. Although I, too, love the fiction of Sandra Cisneros, I had not previously read this story. I don't want to say too much and spoil the story for those who have not yet read it, but we possessed that gift in our family. Each of us four siblings, now spanning from my 64 years down to my youngest brother's 55, is sure that he or she is the precocious child who most utilized and benefited from that gift!

Barb said...

I try not to focus on the gift-giving aspect of the holidays. Commercialism has changed the meaning of gifts and encourages more and more spending, often by those who cannot afford the cost. My husband and I haven't exchanged holiday gifts with each other for a very long time. It is freeing not to feel obligated to brave the crowds in malls to find something to give. My four best friends and I honor our friendship by giving to charities of our choice. Again, no need to buy more when we all have plenty anyway! I hope for you continued good health in 2014, Sally. I'm glad you have big plans for the New Year!

Friko said...

May the new year be rich in gifts for you; the gifts that bring joy and peace of mind.

Deb Shucka said...

This is my favorite of your posts. I didn't know of the importance of Epiphany, and find myself wishing I'd read this earlier as I struggled to get back to the routines and chaos of school. I loved the Cisneros story - one I'll read to my kids in the future. So, my friend, your words are a huge gift to me today as I struggle to find light in the winter's darkness. Love.

LC said...

Wonderful gifts! Your thoughts and the video were touching and challenged my efforts to keep tears at bay.

Now I am off to open the other two gifts via your links plus google for a little more understanding of Epiphany.

I love that you are still reaching, teaching and engaging others, Not So Retired English Teacher!

sablonneuse said...

Hello, I enjoyed visiting your blog and it's strange you should have written about Epiphany because in France it is celebrated with the Galette des Rois. In the UK we never bothered about it except as the day when all Christmas decorations should be out of sight.
Here, in France, they leave the decorations up until at least the end of jabuary.

Perpetua said...

Such a lovely post, Sally, about one of my favourite Christian feasts. At Christmas the good news was brought to the Jews - the shepherds. At Epiphany it was made known to the Gentiles - the Magi and the rest of us.

I love the T S Eliot poem, so now I'm off to read the short story.

Terra said...

Thanks for reminding me about Three Kings Day, you are right, we could do more to celebrate it. Have you seen the recent movie The Way, somehow it seems connected to what you write here today. It is about a father who journeys thru grief walking on the Pilgrims Way in northern Spain and I wrote about it on my blog today.

Olga said...

I have gotten the clear sense that -- in spite of feeling a bit icky -- your holidays included all the essential elements of family, friends, food, fond memories and hope. Thank you for sharing these with us.