Epiphany #2: In the Jordan River, the Baby is Not Thrown Out with the Bath
A good friend and maturing spiritual master clued me in this year to the depths of Epiphany. I learned that, during this Christian festival of lights, believers for thousands of years have dwelt upon Jesus’ humanity. I like that. There is a sense that we got back permission to be human when God did.
This epiphany prayer introduces three important texts for the festival:
Today the bridegroom claims his bride, the Church, since Christ has washed away her sins in Jordan’s waters; the Magi hasten with their gifts to the royal wedding; and the wedding guests rejoice, for Christ has changed water into wine, alleluia.
John the Baptist should all make us smile about our wild-haired over-intense moments. For, it is in the baptism narrative that we find our demons washed away and transformed into a prophetic voice. And we find the Lord of this earth coming not to destroy but remake us back into his humanity.
Biblical scholar John Pilch suggests that the dessert was a no-man’s land except for animals. Furthermore, because of its inhabitability and the type of beings associated with wilderness, the desert was seen as deviant place to have dwelt, let alone visit.
Jesus visits us in our deviant places and turns us not into pristine puritans but into prophets. We keep our wild eyed edges. They become powers that draw others to God and prepare their hearts for God himself. Our sins are washed away, and this means that God did not throw the baby out with the bath water. We remain ourselves, only now we can reach our God-given destiny like never before.
And this is possible because Jesus’ dominion would stretch far beyond the Rome of the first century. We see this in the baptism scene. The fact that the dove shows up as an actual bird (see Luke 3.22-23) on the borders of the wilderness tells us a lot about God’s view of our humanity. Not only do we have a Lord of this world and of the universe, a Lord that finds this creation good and worth his time. We have a Lord who spends the extent of his time and energy calling out the best in us so that He can breathe again the breath of life into our wearied bodies. For the chosen one has come to us: “The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.”