Isaiah 43.1-7, Psalm 29, Acts 8.14-17, Luke 3.15-17, 21-22Epiphany, meaning ‘a showing’, is traditionally associated not only with the visit of the Magi to the holy family, but also with the baptism of Jesus. Hence, today, three readings and a Psalm replete with water imagery that can be associated n various ways with baptism.
In the words of Isaiah, water symbolises life-threatening events and experiences through which God will be with us. In Psalm 29, the power of water is sued as a backdrop to the greater power of God. In Acts 8, water remains in the background: it must have been part of ’baptism in the name of the Lord Jesus’, but the real story is that there is more to baptism than the Samaritan converts had experienced.
It’s as if they had prepared for the voyage of discovery that we call Christian life, but had not quite set out. John the Baptiser would have been familiar with the idea: he was well aware that he was merely preparing people for something greater.
The story of Jesus’ own baptism concludes with a mention of heaven being opened. Looking at the different gospel accounts, it’s not clear whether everybody saw what Jesus saw, but the point is that baptism opens up a whole new perspective on life. We should, at least sometimes, expect to see ‘heaven in ordinary’, and humanity ‘well-drest’. We might well see it before it is obvious; perhaps even before we are justified in seeing it. Perhaps, in some situations, hope can only be justified by faith.