A year ago my good friend Stewart suffered a catastrophic stroke, from which he died last May. One of his great loves was to find reasons for parties and gatherings at his home where he and Helen would arrange food and entertainment. And when Stewart organised things, they were choreographed with care and forethought, with the invited guests made welcome and expected to join in the fun and games, the food and drink and the laughter and conversation.
Stewart and Helen introduced Sheila and I to Epiphany parties. At such parties we would have soup, home made bread and then a large cake, preceded by games inside or out, with a memorable evening of shove ha'penny on the big dinner table.
I mention this because the season of Epiphany is here again, and memories of those Epiphany parties are still vivid and carry the emotional freight of good memories and meticulously planned fun and liturgy. Because we prayed and heard the story of the Magi and their gifts on those evenings too.
The Nativity picture by Burne Jones is one of my favourites, and it captures the splendour and mystery of gifts being brought to the child who is the Gift of God, the God who gives of God's deepest self. This post is in memory of a man who brought much love and laughter into my life, and whose spirituality may best be described as making the welcome of God tangible. He was deeply read in Christian mysticism, and for him deep thought, strong passion and embrace of human life in its diversity and fullness, were given expression in a man whose smile was a benediction, and whose prayers made you feel intrusive yet welcome to overhear a conversation between a man and God. There are many privileges in being a pastor, not least of them coming within the companionship of those whose love for God is contagious.
Like thos Magi of old, he was a wise man, who brought his gift, and worshipped the Christ child.