“…And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water,
suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God
descending like a dove and alighting on him.
And a voice from heaven said,
“This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”
As I write this Spirit Soundings, I pray that the seasons of Christmas and Epiphany have blessed you richly with the reminder of God’s ever-faithful light breaking into our lives – no matter the depth of the darkness. For me, the season was blessed with some quiet space along with gatherings of family and friends. But like many of you, I experience the journey to Christmas as hectic. I have often envisioned myself arriving at the manger looking as if I just run a marathon – sweaty and out of breath – but so grateful to have arrived. This all-too-common rhythm, framed in part by the consumer nature of our culture, has contributed to my appreciation for the post-Christmas season – the Twelve Days of Christmas – that escorts us into the season of the Epiphany.
There is no disputing that Epiphany is a bit anti-climactic in our North American cultural context. It is a time when every decoration gets put away and life returns to ‘normal’ (whatever that means) until next year. As I have shared in the past, for me epiphany is quite the opposite – it is the time when I can finally allow for the revelation that is made known to humanity (symbolized by the Wise Men) to touch my mortal and weary soul. It is a time when I have learned to bask in the time between the incarnation (birth of the infant messiah) and this extraordinary season of the manifestation (Latin definition of Epiphany) – as the incarnation breaks through established assumptions and is made known to the world.
This “making known to the world” moves and escorts us beyond the “light that breaks into the darkness” to the shores of the Jordan River where Jesus is drenched by the waters of baptism. This a powerful movement as we are guided by a light in the night sky compelling us forward into the unknown – to the daylight sky offering and claiming an identity for each of us. This Sunday we will celebrate the baptism of Jesus – as God again breaks through the assumptions of power and privilege of that time – making visibly known the pleasure carried in God’s heart as Jesus is baptized preparing to embark on his ministry which will begin with the temptations in the wilderness. This is my Son…. With whom I am well pleased.”
As we begin this new decade and new year – a year already stained with violence, threat of war and natural disasters – these words of God matter. They are words that make claim on each of us. They are words that remind us that in life and death, you and I belong to God. In a world of more and more isolation and polarization, you and I are bound together by our bond to the creator God made known in the person of Jesus, the Christ. This is the reassurance of our faith.
My prayer for us as we begin 2020 is that we will even more-boldly embrace our identity, ever-committed to being incarnate manifestations of the light of Christ in everything we do – including bringing transparency and light into how we engage governance in our churches and ministries – and even-greater concreteness in how we embody the incarnate love of God in Christ in the world. May we together be vessels that offer hope to the hopeless, deepening our commitment as a Matthew 25 people – feeding the hungry, quenching the thirsty, welcoming the stranger, clothing the naked, caring for the infirmed and visiting those in bondage. And may our identity be one that compels God to break through the heavens in pleasure saying “These are my beloved children in whom I am well-pleased.”