“Thus says God, the Lord, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people upon it, and spirit to those who walk in it: I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness, I have taken you by the hand and kept you…..” (Isaiah 42)
Today marks the first Sunday in the season of Epiphany. On Saturday we celebrated the Feast of the Epiphany itself. And we were reminded of the coming of the wise men, the sages from afar, to the birthplace of Jesus. By that story we are told that Jesus came, not just for a few, but for all. For all of “us” and for all with whom we share this world.
In the words of St. Peter in Acts of the Apostles: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality.”
And today, we hear the story of the baptism of Jesus. (We had a little fast-forward of 30 years in 30 hours…) In this morning’s Gospel, Jesus is full grown.
Today’s story is not just the story of John the Baptist and the River Jordan and the cleansing ritual and Jesus.
Importantly, the Gospel story we hear today is also a story of the Holy Spirit, descending upon Jesus, in bodily form like a dove. It’s the story of a voice coming from heaven declaring, “You are my Son, the Beloved.”
That dove and voice bit is essential to the story. Because by it we learn, just as the witnesses of old learned, that somehow in this person, Jesus God is made (here’s the good Epiphany word). God is made manifest in Jesus the man.
As the old hymn goes: “God in man made manifest”.
In this person Jesus, God is.
And because God is in this person Jesus, in this human being born like one of us, in this human being dwelling on earth like one of us, because God is in this person Jesus, we understand that God has chosen to engage with us in an incredible, powerful, awesome and efficient way.
So that now we can hear the word of God in the prophet Isaiah and know it’s true,
“I have taken you by the hand and kept you.”
Throughout the season of Epiphany ahead we will recognize, embrace, and celebrate, that God has taken us by the hand and kept us.
We will celebrate that God has been manifest in Jesus, and, as such, has engaged with us closely.