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Epiphany in a Box


Years ago, my dear wife, Roberta Maran, came up with an idea at Christmas that enchanted me.  “In addition to other presents, let’s give people Christmas boxes that have nothing inside of them – except messages that are deep and pithy!”
So we got busy and made a bunch, and gave them to family and friends.
This past Sunday, I revived her idea and employed it in worship at the church I serve as pastor – the United Church of Christ of Simi Valley CA.  We knew that turnout would be sparse on Christmas morning, after our full sanctuary on Christmas Eve.  So I put slips of paper into little Christmas-ey boxes and put them on the altar.  We sat in a circle, and I passed them out to the congregants to present to the person next to them and then open and discuss with each what they found on their slips of paper.  Lively conversations ensued.
Try this practice for Epiphany Sunday, Jan 6 – the day we mark on the Christian calendar to remember the Three Wise Men – representing the nations of the world – appearing in Bethlehem to offer gifts to the baby Jesus.  It’s the day we celebrate the emergence not just in Israel, but throughout the world, of the higher consciousness of unconditional love that the sacred myth of Christmas expresses. 
In our culture, we make a big deal about giving tangible gifts to each other at Christmas.  That’s nice.  But better yet are the intangible gifts we give and receive – gifts of time, listening, insight, wisdom, care, compassion, curiosity, wonder, awe.  These intangibles, motivating us into action, then manifest in tangibles:  food for the hungry, healing for the sick, homes for the houseless.
So have fun with this at church or at home!  Into Christmas-ey boxes, pack slips of paper with intriguing messages.  Share them with each other and let them become fodder for conversation.  And then see what ways you can make tangible the intangibles inside those boxes!
A list of messages you can put in the boxes (send me your messages to add):

  • A supply of spare time
  • The afterglow of a smile
  • A positive attitude
  • A strong dose of imagination
  • A message from your dreams
  • The egos of Jesus and Buddha
  • All the nothing you ever wanted
  • A day’s supply of laughter
  • A sigh of relief
  • A groan of ecstasy
  • A secret memory
  • A hint of your destiny
  • An opinion you need to release
  • A bright idea
  • An argument extinguisher: in a relationship emergency, put this box over your face and breathe deeply
  • A unique experience
  • A beginner’s mind
  • A creative spirit
  • A new beginning
  • A serendipity
  • A blend of 25% kindness, 25% patience, 25% forgiveness, 20% hope, 5% brilliance – open in a spiritual emergency and breathe deeply
  • Enough oxygen to inflame your deepest passion
  • Nothing you can’t live without
  • Nothing that matters
  • The silence between notes that makes music beautiful
  • The sound of Jesus meditating for 40 days in the wilderness
  • What is left when you strip away all your illusions about who you are
  • The soul of Rumi’s spiritual friend, Shams of Tabriz
  • The sound of Buddha meditating at the Bodhi Tree
  • Confirmation of your inner wisdom
  • A scoop of wind from the top of a mountain
  • The true meaning of Bob Dylan’s song lyrics

What epiphanies await your discovery?


Rev. Jim Burklo is the Executive Director of Progressive Christians Uniting, which is now organizing ZOE, a national network of progressive Christian ministries at colleges and universities.   He is the founder of, writes a weekly blog, “Musings,and serves as pastor of the United Church of Christ of Simi Valley, CA. He is the author of seven published books on progressive Christianity – his latest is Tenderly Calling: An Invitation to the Way of Jesus.

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