Epiphanies, Baptisms and the Holy Spirit

This past week we celebrated Epiphany (January 6)--a day when many in the church celebrate the visit of the Magi to the Christ child. Epiphany means "manifestation" or "revelation." That visit marked the first revelation of God's Son to non-Jewish people. The Good News came for all people. All. Every one.

Today we marked the baptism of Jesus by His cousin John. This event is usually part of epiphany as well, since God verbally revealed His Son--His beloved in whom He is well-pleased. No one present had room to doubt whom Jesus was.

Jesus' baptism has always been a mystery to me...Jesus didn't need to be baptized. He didn't need to repent--He was perfect, sinless. He didn't need to confess or be washed clean. He wouldn't be marking Himself as a follower of...Himself. Nor would He be doing it to identify with His death and resurrection. There is no "spiritual" reason for Jesus to be baptized.

His baptism mainly seems to be for our sake. 1) So that we can follow Him in His baptism when we follow Him. 2) And God makes His Son known to us. In the Gospel of Mark, this is where we meet the Christ. Not in the stable. Not as a child. As an obscure adult from Nazareth. But the Holy Spirit descends upon Him and the Father says that He is well pleased with His beloved Son.

Later, after Pentecost--after Jesus has ascended into Heaven and the Holy Spirit has been given to the Disciples, nearly anytime someone becomes a follower of Christ two things happen: 1) they are baptized, and 2) the Holy Spirit descends on them. The three events (believing, baptism and the Holy Spirit) are often connected.

Sometimes I wish I had that experience. Most Western evangelicals tend to put focus on praying a prayer to accept Jesus into your heart (we also seldom note the cost of following Christ). Of course, there is no "magic formula" to becoming a follower of Christ. But there is something special in believing, receiving the Holy Spirit and being baptized. I wonder if I'm missing out because I haven't had that seemingly visible experience of having the Holy Spirit descend upon me.

After the sermon at church tonight, we had the opportunity to go to one of four people who were available for us to have them pray for us to receive the Holy Spirit. Not that we don't have the Holy Spirit, but I'm not sure that we're always "full" of the Holy Spirit. I know there's plenty of my "flesh" in my life that needs to get out of the way to make room for more of the Spirit. I also know that I had that that "supernatural" tingling feeling when I was prayed over (it's similar to when I'm receiving sage advice from an elder--something I've been convinced is the Holy Spirit getting my attention).

At any rate, I know that I need more of the Holy Spirit in my life, and less of myself. I guess epiphanies (even if they're a bit obvious like that) still happen today.

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