Today marks the beginning of a new season. Christmas is [finally] over, and the Feast of the Epiphany is upon us. Today we celebrate the coming of the Magi, and begin a season of looking for the ways in which God continues to reveal his will in the world. I’ll post my Epiphany homily a little later today, but in the meantime, I’m still looking toward Sunday, which my Prayer Book calls “First Sunday after the Epiphany *colon* The Baptism of our Lord.”
It would be easy to see the second half of this feast’s title and focus all of our attention of the Gospel appointed for Sunday, but honestly, a chopped up version of Luke’s baptism narrative doesn’t get me too excited. Another Sunday preaching about how John the Baptist wasn’t the Messiah doesn’t seem particularly helpful. And since I dealt with the Holy Spirit yesterday, I find myself seeking another angle for the first Sunday in a very short season after the Epiphany.
I was struck this morning by the lesson from the prophet Isaiah, in which the prophet recounts for the people of Israel, now living in exile, the promise that God is faithful even in the toughest of times.
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.”
For many Christians, the chief image of baptism is that of being washed clean of our sin, but for the Apostle Paul, the prevailing image is that of death. As he writes in Colossians 2, in baptism we are buried with Christ and raised to new life. Couple that with the promise of God in Isaiah 43, and we are reminded on this the First Sunday after the Epiphany *colon* The Baptism of our Lord, that just as God stood with Jesus in his baptism, his temptation, and yes, even his death, God stands ready to reveal himself to us in our baptism, in the trials and tribulations of our lives, in those moments of joy and grace, and perhaps most especially in the hour of our death, where we join with Christ in the fullness of life everlasting.