Since I didn’t grow up in a liturgical church setting I had little exposure to the Western church calendar and all the celebrations that surround it. As my own little family has learned about Advent, Lent and Holy Week we have tried to observe them in ways that make them meaningful in our context. Our annual traditions grow closer to the intent all the time though our methods can, admittedly, be a bit quirky.
Several years ago I was stumped over the meaning that Epiphany could hold for my family. Epiphany, on January 6th, is a traditional Christian celebration that marks the 12th day of Christmas and observes the arrival of the wise men to the house where young Jesus was staying. It also commemorates the introduction of Jesus to the Gentiles; the kings were not Jews but were visitors from the East. At the core, it’s an open invitation for all people, who seek the Christ, to find him.
As I looked into it I found that some family traditions included a special cake, a house blessing, annual reflections on how God was at work, the completion of the crèche or homemade boxes lined with hay in which to receive small gifts. These were all very appealing, but didn’t quite hit the spot for us as we navigated this day for the first time.
I wanted to interpret this day for my boys in a way that made it special without turning it into another gift-giving opportunity. The ideas of seeking and finding and of going on a resolute journey stood out to me. These seemed like tangible things for young boys to take hold of.
Our tradition for Epiphany now looks like this: On January 6th, we read the story from Matthew 2 and finish our nativity scene by adding the wise men while removing the shepherds. And then, as we have done every year since, we go Geocaching.
While this may seem like a toss out of left field, my children love the activity. It gives them the chance to plug a destination (coordinates) into our handheld GPS and follow the directions until we come close to the cache (a hidden treasure box of trinkets). This is when the real search begins as the cache can be very well hidden within that last 10 feet. There is rejoicing when we find it and we tear into it excitedly, writing our names in the log and exchanging the trinkets we brought for a charm we find inside. There are so many teachable little moments in this activity. It’s not a perfect metaphor, but for young, kinesthetic learners, it’s a hit.
The holidays have so many extra dressings that tend to weigh me down. This off-the-beaten-path activity lets our family peel away the extraneous and looks afresh at the core, the gift of hope given to us through Jesus. If you want to try geocaching with your own family you can get started at www.geocaching.com. Let your own epiphanic journey begin.