the Epiphany of the Baptism of Jesus by John

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The feast the epiphany is such a powerful feast. Though Christmas is that big day that is celebrated commemorating the nativity, it many times is looked at as a birthday. If Christmas is that day of birth, it is the epiphany that marks the day of understanding who that Child in the manger was. That understanding is what makes the epiphany such a powerful day. Within the narrative of that day in conjunction with the nativity gospels, there is given so much information on discerning who that infant was. Though that  day frequently focuses on the magi, there are others who face their own epiphanies of who Christ is, and through the eyes of each of them, we too can get a glimpse of who the Christ child is. There are the eyes of Mary and Joseph, those of Anna and Simenon, the shepherds, and then also those magi. Each of those had their own epiphanies on who the Christ Child was based on their experiences and knowledge. To each of these God was manifested in an infant, they recognized God in a new life.

The next epiphany of who that child was, comes decades later at the baptism Of Jesus by John in the Jordan river. Here it is a crowd that hears “this is my beloved son whom I am well pleased.” With that thy don’t just see who Jesus is, but they also take an active part in Gods plan. With that voice of God, and the clouds parting, they truly know that God both recognizes them and is with them. At that baptism they are given that choice to listen and follow him. To think about Christ’s baptism in the Jordan, isn’t one also reminded just a bit of Moses at the red sea? Though God conversed with Moses, it was his followers that had to make the decision to follow him into the red sea, and emerge in a new freedom on the other side. That decision and commitment was as much about Moses followers as it was about Moses. The same is true when those Hebrews crossed the Jordan into the promised land; they could be led to that river but the decision was theirs to cross it. In looking at Jesus baptism, one can see Jesus taking on his ministry, and one can also see those in that crowd making a personal decision to follow him.

In the Baptism of the Lord, the epiphany that the disciples experienced is described in three events. They are the clouds opening, the spirit descending, and that voice of God speaking to them. With that they realized that God had not abandoned them, though with life as harsh as it was they had every reason to believe that he had. In that baptism their God had returned to them, and again spoke to them. That was a profound event that they were witness to. The baptism though is more than being witness. Johns baptism was also about repentance and returning to the Lord. These don’t simply speak of witness, but they speak of action. In witnessing that epiphany at the baptism they are called to change, and they are called to take action, and they are called to follow him.

In reading the accounts of this event, there is one other point that can  not be missed. In this scene there is the Father present as he says “this is my beloved Son”, there too is the spirit that descends in the form of a dove which is that same spirit that descends on creation, and then there is Jesus son of the Father. In this Epiphany the Trinity becomes manifest as one God with three distinct natures. It is the beginning of a new testament. The path that they are being called to follow is truly a new path. Epiphanies of God to the chosen people occur throughout the OT, the burning bush, in clouds, as a pillar of fire are a few examples. They are common enough that there is always the danger of glossing over the appearance of both the Spirit and the Father, while directing the focus on the Son. The danger of course is missing this appearance as an appearance of the trinity. It is so blatantly obvious, it might get lost in plain sight. To the writers, they were familiar with Gods presence in the clouds and heavens, and the spirit as a dove was equally common  to their faith. The revelation of Christ as Son of God, and the Son of God as flesh and bones was their epiphany. That is the Theophany. It is that Theophany which is the central teaching of Christian Faith, and this writing very much points towards that new faith and new direction. On one hand a person can think on a passage and meditate on all sorts of things. On the other hand these texts are the basis of a theology and dogma that is quite well-defined. Neither should be slighted. The catechism of the trinity, and of baptism do have their basis in the testament on the baptism of the Lord.

Theophany: a visible manifestation to humankind of God

>a repost from 2014

3wise men

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(wise men of the bible, they follow a star and discover the Christ)

What about those wise men, what can they tell us? What lessons can be learned from them? Who are they? Start with the basics. First, they travelled from another land. Second they followed a star. Third they were on a quest. Fourth they carried gifts. The wise men are called magi and many believed they travelled through Zoroastrian Persia. They are often believed to be from three different kingdoms throughout the middle-east. The gospel passages gives them neither name nor number and much of that information has been gleaned from other texts. It is important that they did travel from other countries, and other cultures. Those wise men did cross geographic, cultural, and religious borders. Various regions around the globe give them different names. Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar in the West. Hor, Karsudan, and Basanater in the East and Ethiopia. Kagbha, Badadakharida, and Badadilma in Armenia. Larvandad, Gushnasaph, and Hormisdas in Syria. They travel from many distant places.

They are also often referred to as Wise Men. To some Zoroastrian astrologers, but another translation considers them to be simply wise and old men. They are scholars, philosophers, and people who have witnessed many things. They travel with purpose and they seek answers. Their arrival on a manger is not accidental or coincidental. It is deliberate. It is revealed to them, by a star. Stars of course are heavenly bodies, and we all know what inhabits the heavens. In that day stars were the home of the gods. Those wise men did not follow a map, they were guided by the wisdom and revelation of the star. They both had an epiphany and sought the same. They both sought and recognized the Christ as LORD and savior. They sought and were guided by GOD’S wisdom. They sought and discovered that in a manger. The Christ Child.

They did not passively wander, but they charted a course. They were wise men who sought the LORD. In discovering that Child in a manger, they passed over many other earthly kings. They disregarded they royalty of their and other lands just as they disregarded Herod. They passed by palaces, and emperors, and kings, queens and their descendants. They rode past prophets and sages and courts. They rode past everything their world held valuable so that they might honor a child in a feeding trough. To look at where those wise men arrived, one should also look at what at what they passed along the way.

They were wise and old, they had experienced many things, yet a child brought them to their knees. That Child could not be found within their own borders, or by the formulas from the cultures of the day. They were wise men, they sought and were guided by wisdom. They did not bind the LORDS wisdom by human constraints. They were guided and obedient to a star. Those wise men carried gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Gold of an earthly kingdom and frankincense of a heavenly one. Myrrh is the scent of suffering and death. Those gifts also can be looked at as either prophetic or symbolic. Prophesy tells of what is to come, or could they be symbols of what they sought?

They came to give a king homage, but that king was their revelation and not the worlds. The vision of a star. They were wise old men guided by the wisdom of the LORD. When they arrived at that destination, they knew they found what they sought. Seek and ye shall find. Knock and the door will be opened to you. Guided by the wisdom of a star across all barriers of age, culture, country, and religion. Oddly those barriers those wise men crossed seem insurmountable today. Look at the barriers of the world today. East versus West. Christian versus Muslim versus Jew. The barriers of skin and class and country. Wise men guided by a star, not aimlessly wandering throughout the land. I wonder what their journey would be like across that or any land today?

The Epiphany of the Lord
Lectionary: 20

Is 60:1-6

Ps 72:1-2, 7-8, 10-11, 12-13

Eph 3:2-3a, 5-6

Mt 2:1-12

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a baptismal epiphany

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Its another Epiphany. How many can there be? The answer to that question is three, and the second is commemorated today according to the new liturgical calendar. While the feast of the Epiphany had historically been on 6January, more recently that has changed. Todays epiphany is the baptism of the Lord. It is his baptism by John, it is when the heavens open up, it is when a dove becomes visible, and it is the voice of God that says “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” With those actions , not only is Jesus’s divinity revealed as the Son of God, but the vision of that dove reveals the Trinity. An Epiphany.

This epiphany is about the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist, and that baptism speaks to our own. Our baptism brings us into the fold. Jesus baptism marks the beginning of His public ministry, ours marks the beginning of our journey as disciples. Baptisms and water are an important part of this day. Traditionally the Feast of the Epiphany (6Jan) is commemorated by the blessing of the Epiphany Water. A Holy Water. Baptisms begin with holy water , and often begin with the reciting of the prayers blessing that water. It is an exorcism of the water, and of the person. Many are familiar with the pouring of water from a shell onto an infants head, some are familiar with the baptism of an adult, some are familiar with a baptismal pool. All baptisms involve both death and life, it is a death to sin and a resurrection in Jesus the Christ. Death and resurrection. There actually are three types of baptism; water, fire, and desire.

After all the people had been baptized
and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying,
heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him
in bodily form like a dove.
And a voice came from heaven,
“You are my beloved Son;
with you I am well pleased.”

Johns baptism was one of repentance, and that is the reason did not need to be baptized by John. Jesus was free from all sin, and through His baptism He sanctified that water for humanity. His baptism prepares the waters for us so we might follow him. So often Jesus first words to the apostles were “follow me.” What were John the Baptists baptism like? They took place in the Jordan river and carried a message of repentance. It has been said when a person was baptized by John, when their head left the water that person either saw salvation or damnation. Think of that Baptist, who was a fiery preacher and a man of strength. Visualize John grasping a persons head and plunging it into the river. A second, a minute? One minute or two, how long can a person hold their breath? I imagine John knew how long to submerge someone. I can also imagine that person grasping for their breath like a newborn infant. Death to sin and resurrected in Christ. Three minutes with a head submerged, and three days in a tomb. In those three days Christ descended into hell to reclaim those lives trapped there. Death and resurrection. Water is powerful, as proved by the flood. It also is essential to life. It kills, and it restores. Holy Water. Todays Epiphany commemorates the Baptism of the Lord, it also calls us to ponder our own. This epiphany takes place around water, and in the next that water will be turned into wine.

 

 

 

epiphany

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This day, the feast of the epiphany , is a familiar one. So familiar, one can reach a certain doldrums when describing it. That is something I am trying to avoid. I have no desire to rearrange sentences to repeat what I have already said. If someone should be interested in a past approach to this day, they are recorded and filed away. How do I approach this day today? I think it will not be from the standpoint of the gifts, or even much of an explaining of the kings. I think I will look at the journeys and the stars.

The story tells of the kings journeying from the east, Persia, to Jesus in a manger. They traveled guided by a star. Their journey was deliberate, and educated. They knew how they were going to chart their course, they knew their destination and who they were looking for. They knew in philosophical terms, they knew according to their intellect and background.

Some tell a little about these noble travelers, they were royal, and were considered to be Zoroastrian. Zoroastrian’s was a large religion in the region, they followed one god and adhered to a concept of good versus evil, and light versus darkness. Their worship was of the good, the light, which they symbolized with fire. Theirs was a large religion , the Jews knew them and they knew the Jews. Mary and Joseph likely encountered Zoroaster’s many times.The story tells of their journey to the Christ Child.

The other half of the story was told earlier in the Nativity narratives. The  other half of the story is Christ’s journey to the manger. That story contains Judaism, the Annunciation, the Visitation, Josephs encounter with an angel, the immaculate conceptions . That journey contains every detail that leads to the birth of the Christ Child, including that manger he was born into. It includes the visit by the shepherds under the direction of an angel. If one were to look at every event that lead up to the nativity as a point of light, a star, a constellation would begin to emerge. The magi were astronomers, they read the stars.

Two constellations begin to emerge.The magi’s story also had its points of light, they had their constellation, they had events that lead them on their journey. When they reached the end of their journey, they fell to their knees in adoration at that manger. The stars fell into place, they were aligned.An  order in the heavens, a new order on earth. A manger as significant as a temple, in fact more so. Their epiphany was discovering the answer that sent them on a quest. That answer was the Child born in a manger, a very specific Child. The Christ Child, they found their King. It was written in the stars.  This is a very profound event, celebrated from the earliest years of the Church.It is an  Epiphany.

 

the Baptism of the Lord

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The beginning of the preparation for Christmas began with John the Baptist proclaiming repent and make way for the Lord. Today Jesus is baptized by that fiery preacher. This same baptizer declarers that he must decrease so that Jesus might increase. John realizes that he had played his role in preparing for the Lord, and in his statement about how he must decrease so Jesus might increase is his introduction on how one begins their life in Christ.It is in baptism that  we die to ourselves and are reborn in Christ. I think this becomes vividly apparent when one thinks of John baptizing in the Jordan. When submerged in the water the person must hold their breath. Man can not live for long under water. As we rise from the water our first action is that gasp for air so necessary for life. One can hold their breath only for so long. How different is that first breath from the first breath of an infant just born? In dying to one self the Christian rises devoted to Christ. This feast of the baptism of the Lord is precisely the time to renew those baptismal vows, to remember what our own baptism asks of us. This feast begins Jesus’s public ministry where he asks us to follow him, and that is the journey we begin with our own baptism.

The story of the baptism of Jesus is important too. It tells that Jesus did not need to be baptized by John because he had no sin. His baptism was not for his sins, but for ours. Jesus was not cleansed by those waters, but instead sanctified those waters for mankind. It is our sins that he is taking away. Might this be a good time to let our sins go, to grant ourselves the forgiveness He has given us?  In that story it also is important to notice what happens during the baptism of the Lord. The first sign that happens is that the clouds part, and to rephrase that is to say that heaven opened up. That is an important event as it signifies that God has again entered into our lives. In ancient times people very much viewed the heavens as being the dominion of God separated by the firmament, and those clouds parting is the firmament of heaven opening up. That is something those ancients had not seen in a long time, and the reporting of it in the gospels is to signify a momentous event.That’s something worth remembering.

The other event that happens at Jesus baptism is that they hear the voice of God.” This is my beloved son with whom I am well pleased.” Again, those ancients had not heard the word of God for a long time, and that is something they had prayed for years to hear. Their God is again speaking to them. Jesus is the word made flesh, and it is that word that nourishes us as we journey with Christ as we rise from those waters. That word is the good news recorded by those gospel writers as they journeyed with Christ. Jesus public ministry begins with his baptism in the Jordan by John. This Christmas season ends with this baptism, and marks the beginning of the liturgical Ordinary Time. It seems to me that Ordinary Time is where we live as we again walk with Christ. With words spoken comes the reminder to listen for that voice while on that walk.