Today we celebrate the Feast of Epiphany – a little early I know but Easter is early in 2018 – Hence next Sunday we celebrate the Baptism of Our Lord.
Anyway, along with Epiphany being the celebration of the gift bearers from the East recognising the Messiah there are many stories or legends around Christmas, the arrival of the Christ child, and gift givers who missed the opportunity to worship at His birth.
Part of Italy’s traditional celebration is the story of a witch known as La Befana who arrives on her broomstick during the night of January 5 and fills the stockings with toys and sweets for the good children and lumps of coal for the bad ones.
According to the legend, the night before the Wise Men arrived at the manger they stopped at the shack of an old woman to ask directions. They invited her to come along but she replied that she was too busy. Then a shepherd asked her to join him but again she refused. Later that night, she saw a great light in the sky and decided to join the Wise Men and the shepherd bearing gifts that had belonged to her child who had died. She got lost and never found the manger.
Now La Befana flies around on her broomstick each year on the 11th night, bringing gifts to children in hopes that she might find the Baby Jesus. So in Italy, children hang their stockings on the evening of January 5 awaiting the visit of La Befana.
Legend or not, the story is a salutary reminder to us not to allow ourselves to get so caught up in the “busyness” of life and preparations for Christmas, that we miss the Christ child himself.
For me this means making a conscious effort to look for the Christ in the face of each person I meet… May you find Him in unexpected places and know the true joy of Christmas!
And as we close the door on 2017 and ring in 2018 may our eyes be ever open to see the unexpected manifestations of Christ who continues to journey with us.