Sunday, 8 January 2017

Baptism of Christ: The 1st Sunday of Epiphany

Jesus often surprised people. He did not conform to what people expected of him. In his first appearance as an adult in the gospel accounts he joined the repentant sinners asking to be baptised in the River Jordan by John the Baptist. John wanted to prevent this happening. He recognised that Jesus did not need this, but Jesus quietly insisted that it should be so. He is indeed Emmanuel, God-with-us, fully human and humbly identifying with humanity.

Matthew's Gospel tells the story of Jesus' baptism like this:
"Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?’ But Jesus answered him, ‘Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfil all righteousness.’ Then he consented. 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.’ " Matthew 3: 13 - 17

The Baptism of Christ is one of the several epiphanies in the gospels that open windows to reveal glimpses of who Jesus really is, 'Son of God', united with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Malcolm Guite has a lovely sonnet for the Baptism of Christ that reflects on this mystery of the Three-in-One God at the heart of all things. It comes from his anthology Sounding the Seasons published by Canterbury Press. You can hear the poet read it here on his blog or listen to Steve Bell's song that is based on Guite's sonnet. I have also taken the liberty of quoting it in full below:


Beginning here we glimpse the Three-in-one;
The river runs, the clouds are torn apart,
The Father speaks, the Sprit and the Son
Reveal to us the single loving heart
That beats behind the being of all things
And calls and keeps and kindles us to light.
The dove descends, the spirit soars and sings
‘You are belov├Ęd, you are my delight!’

In that quick light and life, as water spills
And streams around the Man like quickening rain,
The voice that made the universe reveals
The God in Man who makes it new again.
He calls us too, to step into that river
To die and rise and live and love forever.



Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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