Newborn King/Shepherd Epiphany
Ephesians 3:1-12 January 3, 2021 Matthew 2:1-12
SQuire Rushnell believes that God is always at work, performing miracles right under our noses just to show us how much God loves us! SQuire calls these little miracles “God-winks,” and he compiled a book full of examples that he entitled When God Winks at You. He has continued to document these miracles from all around the world, and recently published a new collection, including this story from McAllen, Texas.
What if you were told that your husband was going to die within three years unless he received a heart transplant? And when an inner voice told you that God was answering your prayer, you pushed God for a sign—to make it snow on Christmas Day in your south-Texas community where no snowfall had been recorded in over one hundred years? Impossible?
Let me tell you Toni and David’s story…“The White Christmas Godwink!”
McAllen, Texas is a five-and a half-hour drive from Houston, and sitting on the border with Mexico. In the middle of winter, “cold” is 70 degrees. Toni Espinoza, mother of two, and her husband, David, both in their mid-to-late forties, owned a modest home on a quiet street of McAllen, and were grateful that their lives were abundant in joy and values. Their marriage was 30 years strong and two daughters, Trisha and Lisa, were now out of the “nest” and on their way.
The devastating news hit them like a ton of bricks. In 2004, three successive cardiologists in McAllen told David that congestive heart failure had enlarged and damaged his heart to such an extent that it was working at only 10% capacity.
“A heart transplant is your only option,” chorused the doctors. Soon Toni and David were driving to Houston for further evaluations at the famed DeBakey Heart Institute. There, it was confirmed that David’s rejection factor, which should be in the normal range of 60%, was only 15-20%. Was it hopeless??
Both held on to strands of hope, believing that, somehow, they would pull through. Praying several times daily, Toni cried out to God to save her husband. But she was terribly conflicted. In order for David to live, through a heart transplant, someone else had to die. “That doesn’t seem right,” she said to the Almighty.
So she began to ask God not for a transplant, but for a miraculous healing. By early December both Toni and David were feeling a strange peace about it. “I felt we were in God’s hands,” said David.
“I believed that God had already begun working to completely heal my husband,” said Toni. And yet, she wanted assurance (something more tangible) that God’s miracle was already on the way. She spoke with God about it. “Lord, I will know David’s okay if You make it snow on Christmas Day, in McAllen, Texas,” she stated firmly. She mentioned it to David. But, when he didn’t respond—one of those times that husbands don’t really listen—she decided to drop the matter with him. Instead, she told three others about her pact with God: Crawford Higgins, a close family friend; her sister, Sylvia; and her friend, Marilyn.
“Snow in McAllen? That’s impossible!” said her sister. Crawford was more blunt. “Toni, if you’re expecting it to snow here, where we’ve lived all our lives, and never seen snow—and specifically on Christmas Day? You might as well start making the burial arrangements.” Toni nodded. And smiled.
Christmas Eve arrived. At 11:30pm, Toni looked out to the backyard and blinked. Snow flurries were falling. “Trisha!” she shouted to her daughter, home for the holidays. “That’s snow, isn’t it?”
Can anyone of us imagine the joy that ran through Toni? She hugged her daughter. “Your Dad’s going to be okay,” she whispered, choking back tears. “Quick, go get your Dad and Lisa!” Toni pulled open the sliding door to the backyard and stepped onto the lawn, now speckled with snow. Coatless, alone with God, she lifted her face to the heavens, closed her eyes and said, “Thank you, Lord. Thank you.” White flecks of snow dotted her hair and stuck to her smiling face.
The next morning, Christmas Day, the bundled-up children of McAllen burst from their homes to manufacture first-ever snowmen and fanned snow-angels on their front lawns. And, for the first time in recorded history, McAllen, Texas received a white Christmas and the city’s first measurable snow in 109 years!
Three weeks later Toni and David drove back to Houston for three days of tests at DeBakey Institute. On the third morning, Dr. Guillermo Torre entered the small office holding David’s chart. He studied it, checking and re-checking the name on top. His eyes began to widen. His jaw dropped. He looked up at the two of them. “I can’t explain this,” he said with surprise in his voice. “You’re not sick anymore!” He again looked at the charts, and again he looked up. “David, you’re going to be around for a long time.”
”Godwinks” are the tangible evidence that prayers are answered. –SQuire Rushnell in Divine Alignment
Rushnell explains that God is “winking at us” when God does something miraculous in our lives. It’s God’s way of saying that, even when we can’t see or understand everything that’s going on, God does, and God is at work to make things come out right. Some things are simply not revealed to us (yet), and we have to live with the mystery. Well, our scripture readings for today refer to some mysteries revealed.
Paul emphasizes this in his letter to the Christians in Ephesus; and the Gospel reading talks about Magi who came looking for the Newborn King…the Shepherd of Israel. These Gentiles, these people from another land and another religion are seeking God’s light. That’s part of the imagery of the revealing of a mystery—things are not understood because we are “in the dark”; then God sheds LIGHT, and they are understood—the mystery is revealed!
This imagery of light is used throughout the Scriptures, but nowhere is it more graphically used than in the fourth Gospel.
The Apostle John began his gospel by having us remember that God 1. Made us, 2. Gave us life, and 3. Shined God’s LIGHT in the darkness. Then he writes about The True Light (that gives light to everyone) coming into the world. Not everyone received this light, but those who did—those who believed in his name—to those people, he gave the right to become Children of God.
And Paul is explaining in his letter to the Ephesians that
- The light has been shined, and
- God has adopted sons and daughters from all sectors of humanity, and
- The good news of the boundless riches of Christ (the mystery that had been hidden for ages) has now been revealed!
Friends, we as human beings have this enormous capacity for mystery. The Creator has endowed us with curiosity—the desire to explore and understand. We also experience wonder—unless we allow ourselves to let familiarity dull our sense of wonder. And God has also given us the ability to have a sense of awe, the realization that we are so tiny in the universe and, at the same time, highly valued/loved by the One who created it all.
When we read about people coming from a foreign land to seek the Light, it fits in with our own experience: when we come face-to-face with something we don’t understand (a mystery), we try to figure it out. Sometimes we have to live with the mystery and say that we are simply waiting for more light.
We have before us on this banquet table another mystery. Jesus told his Disciples, at their Passover feast, that he was giving them life through his life. And, 2000 years later, we gather to celebrate that mystery—that somehow God gives life to us through the Son today—that God is shining the Light by which the mystery can be revealed, and we can be adopted daughters and sons of The Father! A Father who “winks” at us and lets us know that, even if we don’t thoroughly understand, God loves us and has some great surprises for us.
Prayer: That we will trust God’s love and live in the light.