We will begin this Sunday by acknowledging the Epiphany in our processional hymn, and then as the children gather to process to Children’s Chapel, I will talk with them about the three wise men and that camel, who have moved from the back of the church to join the Holy Family at the front. After that, we fast forward to Jesus’ baptism.
The biblical context of the water of baptism, and its power, is familiar to us all from the words of the Thanksgiving Over the Water, heard every time someone is baptized.
We thank you, Almighty God, for the gift of water. Over it the Holy Spirit moved in the beginning of creation. Through it you led the children of Israel out of their bondage in Egypt into the land of promise. In it your son Jesus received the baptism of John and was anointed by the Holy Spirit as the Messiah, the Christ, to lead us, through his death and resurrection, from the bondage of sin into everlasting life.
Jesus’ anointing by the Holy Spirit is repeated in our baptisms by being sealed with the oil of chism. Here is what the bishop prays when he consecrates that oil: “Eternal Father, whose blessed son was anointed by the Holy Spirit to be the Savior and Servant of all, we pray you to consecrate this oil, that those who are sealed with it may share in the royal priesthood of Jesus Christ.”
Our reading from Isaiah, the first of the “servant songs,” in which the servant is Israel, contains the Lord’s pouring of his spirit on his people. In the concluding portion of the passage we will read, the Lord says that he has kept the covenant made with his people and has fulfilled his promises to them. Now, the Lord declares “new things,” and these will also “spring forth,” just as the former things came to pass.
Peter speaks in the second reading, from the Acts of the Apostles, and summarizes the new thing that has come into being-that Jesus Christ is Lord of all and that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name. Peter also describes Jesus’ baptism and his anointing by the Holy Spirit with power.
The gospel lesson shows us that event. Jesus came to be baptized by John, who demurred at first, saying that the lesser (John) could not baptize the greater (Jesus). Jesus explained that “to fulfill all righteousness” (acting in accordance with the will of God) this must occur. So John did as Jesus said, and when Jesus came up from the water, “the Holy Spirit descending like a dove” alighted on Jesus, and a voice spoke from heaven, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”
Each of us, in our baptism, has the same experience. The living water that fulfills all of God’s promises touches us, and we receive the Holy Spirit by being sealed as Christ’s own with the chrism. And God says, to each of us, and to the world, “This is my child, with whom I am well pleased.” God also gives us power to do his will and work, as he gave it to Jesus. What are we doing with that?