“Allow the children to come to me. Don’t forbid them, because God’s kingdom belongs to people like these children.” Mark 10:14b
Today is St. Nicholas Day, the patron saint of brides, thieves, sailors, prisoners, students and especially children. Often mistaken for Santa Claus, St. Nicholas is legendary in his gift giving. It seems that a father of three children prayed at night for God to help him care for his three daughters in securing their future. Nicholas, then Bishop of Myra, is said to have been walking along the roadside one night. He strolled by the poor man’s house. Windows were not covered. As Nicholas walked by he tossed gold coins through the windows. As the family awoke, there lined up along the wall underneath the windows filling the shoes of the children, the coins overflowed. The father having kept watch during the night, caught a glimpse of their “saint”. They gave thanks to their Bishop of Myra for keeping them from a life of oppressive servitude. In this season of Advent watching and waiting, we give thanks for God’s saving grace upon children.
All too often, however, family situations, especially children, are struggling during this time of year. All is not calm. All is not bright. Some children are in crisis. Some households are suffering.
Epiphany, along with nine Episcopal Churches comprising the newly named North Fairfax Region of The Diocese of Virginia is trying to help. Our own Bill Forbes serves as the registrar for the North Fairfax Region. Sophia Perry serves as the Youth Delegate to the North Fairfax Region. And, Sharon Nachman serves as the Region Life representative. After some discussion, and some good initial groundwork from Sharon with the Fairfax County Police Department, the North Fairfax Region determined that it can be effective in hosting a summit in the spring of 2018. The summit will be a resource for those households who struggle with addiction, specifically the opioid crisis which is dangerously on the rise in Fairfax County.
To learn some of the realities households suffer due to the opioid crisis, Sargent Lon Anthony from the Fairfax County Police suggested we watch “Chasing the Dragon” a forty-nine minute youtube documentary produced by the FBI and aimed at educating students and young adults about the dangers of addiction: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lqdmWRExOkQ . Beware, this is not a comfortable film to watch. At the same time, the pending summit planned for the spring is intended to be a helpful tool in assisting households in healing from addiction. Sharon Nachman is forming a steering committee to help guide this program. If you have an interest in helping with the organization of the spring summit on healing from opioid addiction, please let Sharon know: firstname.lastname@example.org . In the meantime, we remember those households suffering, we offer our support where we are able, and our prayers.
The Advent season invites us to watch for those new to Epiphany. If you’ve been with Epiphany within the past year, the Newcomer Ministry invites you to the Hot Chocolate Bar this Friday, December 8 from 6:30-8:00 p.m. in the back of the worship space. Come, meet others new to Epiphany. Enjoy some holiday treats, casual conversation and learn a bit about how you can be connected to Epiphany.
Children are so often the emphasis of our common life. On Sunday, such is the case. We’ll enjoy a visit from St. Nicholas during 10:00 a.m. worship. As the children return from Sunday School, they will want to leave their shoes in the Gathering Space near the doors to the Worship Space before entering for worship. As St. Nicholas visits, chocolate gold wrapped coins will be dropped into children’s shoes in celebration of good, loving and compassionate St. Nicholas who dedicated his life serving God. Let’s keep it a surprise for the children! A visit from St. Nicholas is always a delight and a joyful reminder of God’s desire for us in our Advent watching to see the light of Christ’s love and care.
As is always the case on the second Sunday of the month, following worship, we’ll pack 200 meals for Fairfax County School kids through Food4Thought, an outreach ministry of the Youth Group. Individual Chef Boyardee meals and soups are always appreciated if you’re wishing to bring food items. Don’t blink. The entire packing takes less than fifteen minutes. All are included and you won’t want to miss this opportunity for kids to help kids.
Return Sunday afternoon to enjoy “A Visit from St. Nicholas” at 4:00 p.m. with the Master Singers of Virginia including our minister of music, Jane Waldrop as one of the talented singers.
How are you doing with your Advent disciplines? Each morning at 5:00 a.m. don’t forget to take a few minutes to inwardly digest your Epiphany Advent Daily Devotional as you keep watch. Then, on Sunday, we’ll look at what scruffy looking, honey slurping, bug eating John the Baptist has to say about our preparedness for Christ to be born in us once again. Keep Advent alive. Make attending worship a priority!
Finally, since the focus of this message has largely been on children. A neighbor just called and mentioned an Advent teaching with the children she witnessed last Sunday. Given all kinds of examples about watching and waiting, the pastor commented to the children how hard it can be to watch and wait this time of year. As the children were gathering to return to their seats one child chimed in, “Pastor, waiting isn’t that hard. After all, Advent is about giving not receiving!” Out of the mouths of babes!
May your watching and waiting for the light of Christ continue to surprise you this Advent season!