Sunday, January 4, 2009

My Epiphany this Sunday

Isaiah 60:1-6, Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14, Ephesians 3:1-12, Matthew 2:1-12

Grace, Mercy and Peace from God, our Heavenly Father, and from Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

This is Epiphany Sunday, the day celebrating the manifestation of the divine nature of Jesus to the Gentiles as represented by the Magi, better known as The Three Wise Men. As the story goes, the Magi followed the Star of Bethlehem to the manger where Jesus was born and offered the three significant gifts of gold, for His magnificence, frankincense for His forgiveness of our sins and myrrh for His death and resurrection.

This morning I quickly want to focus on this definition of epiphany: a sudden manifestation of the essence or meaning of something. My epiphany this morning is concerning my son. As I wake up to write this, I was hit with how blessed I am to have him healthy and engaged in my life. When I heard about the death of Jett Travolta yesterday, I started reflecting on how God has blessed me from June 10, 2002.

First of all, my son was born when I was 36 years old. Before then, I had resigned myself to the fact that I would not be a father on my own. Now grant it, I was not as old as Abraham, but I was just as resigned to the fact that I would not be a father nonetheless. I was a stepfather, but I had not had the privilege of bringing another child into this world, nor was there any indication it was going to happen until October 2001.

So when that fateful day arrived, I experienced what many people have taken for granted, especially in this day and age when it seems like children more than half my age have more than one child. It was a beautiful experience and things seemed to be going without a hitch. However, on the morning of June 11, 2002, as I was holding him in my arms, I heard a disturbing sound.

Sean Christopher Fleming was wheezing. I was sensitive to this because when I was born, I was diagnosed with having asthma, a terrible breathing disorder that I had inherited. I alerted the nurse about the wheezing and an hour later I was told to bring my wife to the hospital's neo-natal care unit. There was my son, all nine pounds of him, in an incubator. The doctor found fluid in his lungs and it was a touch-and-go situation.

Looking at all of the other babies in the unit, many of them prematurely born and under weight, I would visit my son and whisper to him that he was my hero and that the other babies were looking up to him. I told him that if he would make it, the other babies would as well. It did not dawn on me how close to death he was, and trust me that was a good thing.

Now, six and a half years later, my son is a vibrant, active first-grader. He is an expert on all video games involving Sonic the Hedgehog and is a natural left-handed pull hitter. He is smart and handsome and healthy. As I hear about tragedies experienced by other families and having had to deal with public policy to address asthma and sudden infant death syndrome, my epiphany is that God has allowed Sean to overcome that and become a joy to all that encounter him.

I do not know what the future holds for him, but I am glad that he is part of my present. No matter what else happens in my life, this blessing God has given me is my greatest accomplishment and I will cherish it as long as I have a a right mind.

On this Epiphany Sunday, step back and think about your blessings. I believe that you will encounter an epiphany of your own and appreciate the gifts that God has given you in your life.