“In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’” Mark 1:9-11
Dear Redeemer Family:
When most of you receive this, we will be well into the middle of the Season of Christmas. You know the carol? The Twelve Days of Christmas? It is a short season, and its purpose really is to prepare us for what is coming next, Epiphany, God’s light breaking into the world. Epiphany begins, in the lessons, with the arrival of the three magi. It takes place on January 6th, thirteen days after Christmas. It is then, that I like to tell people, that they may open their Christmas presents. Remember, it is the magi who bring the gifts. For some reason, children don’t usually like that waiting for the magi to arrive. What is really important about the Day of Epiphany is that illuminated in the gospel lesson of the day, God’s promise shines bright in the night as magi follow a star to honor a new king. Strangers from a faraway land, they welcome the long-awaited Messiah of Israel.
The time after Epiphany is really an extended invitation of Baptism. And it is kind of filled with ironies. Mark’s gospel reports the story of Jesus’ baptism with some irony: the one on whom the Spirit descends is himself the one who will baptize others with the Holy Spirit. Think about it! John the Baptist doesn’t want to baptize Jesus. Rather he thinks that Jesus should be baptizing him! Again, think about it. The words that we hear coming from heaven at Jesus’ baptism are repeated again, at His Transfiguration at the end of the Season of Epiphany. Again, something to think about!
This theme of an invitation runs really through the whole time of Epiphany. In the Gospel lessons of this time, Jesus goes out and calls His disciples with the words, “Follow me,” an invitation. Philip will invite Nathanael to meet Jesus with, “come and see,” an invitation.
The themes of Epiphany encourages all disciples, that includes us, to go fishing for people, to have intentional conversations with others inside and outside of the Church about their faith, and to invite those who have not yet been baptized to “come and see” what these waters are all about. The waters of baptism tell the truth, that we live in a world of competing values and conflicting loyalties. To follow Jesus is to turn away from other ways of living and being in the world. This is highlighted in the Baptismal Rite itself in the structure of the renunciations and the profession of faith. “Do you renounce the devil and all the forces that defy God? Do you renounce the powers of this world that rebel against God? Do you renounce the ways of sin that draw you from God?” And then, we proclaim our faith in the Baptismal Creed, the Apostles’. “We believe in God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit.” This too is an invitation for all now to “Come and see.”