I had a good friend who got married in January in the early nineteen nineties in Gainesville, Florida. We went down for several days around the time of the wedding because I was taking part in the ceremony. There were a few differences schedule from what was the traditional rehearsal and wedding experiences of that time. For the rehearsal dinner, a bonfire at the farm of his fiancee's family was planned. This bonfire would lead to a very unexpected experience of the weekend.
The day I met my friend's fiancee, she introduced me to the tradition of gathering Christmas trees for a post-Christmas burning. She picked me up in her sixties Volvo two-door station wagon and informed me we needed to gather Christmas trees. I asked her exactly what that meant and she said, "you'll see." We started driving around Gainesville looking for Christmas trees on the curbs. WE found a nice stash in a cul-de-sac and grabbed our first two. She told me to be quick because she wasn't sure it was legal, even though they were being thrown away. We grabbed and loaded the trees and kept driving around, looking for more. After shoving about five or six trees into that small car she wanted more. We took off down a new road that suddenly ended. She got out of the car and tested the newly cut roadway, jumped back in the car and said, "hold on." We took off across the unfinished road because she saw a splendid tree on the other side. I began laughing and mentioned I could see why my friend was marrying her.
We went back to the farm and unloaded the trees, piling them into a pile in the burn area. My mom picked me up and got m back to the hotel to prepare for the rehearsal. Afterward, we all met at the farm and lit the Christmas trees, then made our plates of food. That bonfire was large and bright, and the experience of gathering the trees made it more fun.
Looking back, that was my first Epiphany celebration. None of us knew about Epiphany celebrations, but that was what it was. We gathered around a bright fire of celebration just after the celebration of incarnation. Much of our joy was enhanced by our shared faith and the hope with which we looked forward. We were all so different politically, socially, and even in the churches we attended, but we were united in celebration and our love for one another. It was Epiphany and our shared faith was made possible because God revealed and shared with those who had not been called God's people. Oh, that our Epiphanies can be ones of unity and love rather than strife and conflict.