by Pastor Heath Howe, Family Ministries

There are, to be sure, times when it is difficult to see light in the face of overwhelming darkness and evil. However, as St John assures us, "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it." In the end, darkness cannot extinguish the light of God. People of faith know this to be true.
                                             Br. David Vryhof
                                             Society of Saint John the Evangelist

As we enter the season of Epiphany, that season when we celebrate the arrival in Bethlehem of the Wise Men who were led by a star, and as I look around at the violence and hatred that are a part of our lives today, I find this quote from Brother Vryhof hopeful and reassuring. Epiphany falls in the month of January, which is a dark, winter month. When I think of the star leading the Wise Men during such a time, I imagine the star's light filling the sky with glorious, white beauty that will not be dimmed and cannot be overcome by the night. No matter how dark our lives look and no matter how lost we may feel, the light of God's star never leaves us. In fact, it is God's light that guides us through and out of such times.

To help us re-member (not simply recall to mind but remember, as in reconnect) this piece of our Christian story into our daily lives, I offer you the following prayer and ritual. As always, please adapt as needed for your family.

Preparation: Epiphany begins on January 6th and lasts until the beginning of Lent, about six weeks. On a table, place a large candle, representing the Star of Bethlehem, and around it a small candle for each family member. Keep a Bible in hand and light the large candle.

Welcome (read by a family member): For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven. Welcome to this Epiphany season.

Scripture Reading (read by the oldest member present): Matthew 2:1-12

Reflection: The Wise Men brought Jesus gifts he would need as he grew: gold for monetary value and the two spices, frankincense and myrrh, for personal, medical and religious needs. In biblical times, people would use these spices as perfumes, as medicine to cleanse wounds, and as materials during animal sacrifices.

Share your thoughts on the following questions:
In our culture the material things people value most are....
The material things I value most are...
In our culture the non-material things people value most are...
The non-material things I value most are....

Ritual Action: Have each family member light their own candle from the larger candle in the center and say the following: May the star lead me to Jesus today.
In Matthew 25:40, Jesus tells us, "...just as you did to the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me."

During the season of Epiphany commit yourself to an intentional way of bringing valuable gifts to Jesus, whose face we see in all of creation. Consider giving time at a soup kitchen, nursing home, prison, shelter or other such outreach. You may also give money to various charities such as Heifer Project or Appalachian Service Project and many others. Be specific in your planning, setting goals and creating a timeline. (At the end of the Epiphany season gather together again, light all the candles and share the impact such giving had on you as individuals and as a family.)

Prayer: Hold hands. One person begins the prayer by naming silently or aloud a prayer for one in need. When that person has finished, he/she gently squeezes the hand of the person to his/her right. That person then shares aloud his/her prayer. The pattern continues until all have had a chance. End your prayer with The Lord's Prayer.

Blessings (offered by the youngest person present): May the God of ‘the least of these" give us open hearts and generous hands. Amen.

May you and your family bring the light of Christ into this world each day.

*This ritual was adapted from a ritual found in For Everything a Season: 75 Blessings for Daily Life by the Nilsen Family.

For other activities or ideas for practicing the four keys please go to

For devotional tools and thoughtful reflections please consider