This post, in addition to being a part of Rookie Anglican, is part of a series on the Collects of the Christian Year (ACNA), called “Collect Reflections.” If you’re just jumping in, make sure to check out the introductory post, “Announcing Collect Reflections.” All Collect Reflection posts can be found here.
Sadly, the time for saying “Merry Christmas” has come to an end (until December 25, 2018).
Fortunately, this week begins what is called Epiphanytide or Epiphany season. As I’ve stated before (in an overview of the Christian Year called “What Time Is It?”):
This season commemorates the revelation of Christ to the Gentiles in fulfillment of prophecy (Isa 60:1-3), as exemplified in the visitation of the Magi (Matt 2:1-12; McKenzie, The Anglican Way [affiliate link], 127-8).
In fact, while we’re at it, here’s the collect for the Epiphany, also known as the Manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles (January 06):
O God, by the leading of a star you manifested your only Son to the peoples of the earth: Lead us, who know you now by faith, to your presence, where we may see your glory face to face; through Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
That’s all well and good, of course. But what do we do when we don’t feel much like celebrating during Epiphanytide? What if this time of the year feels much more like the doldrums of January?
Well, as the Collect for the week ahead reminds us, we remember and cling to our baptism!
The First Sunday after the Epiphany; The Baptism of Our Lord
Here’s this week’s Collect:
Eternal Father, who at the baptism of Jesus revealed him to be your Son, anointing him with the Holy Spirit: grant to us, who are born again by water and the Spirit, that we may be faithful to our calling as your adopted children; through Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Baptism and the Holy Spirit
Now, if you think about it, it’s kind of wild that Jesus Christ, the very Son of God, was baptized and anointed with the Holy Spirit! (It’s a similarly theologically profound fact that the Son of God prays, but more on that some other time.)
Maybe I’m the only one to have this crass of a thought, but wouldn’t we be inclined to think that Jesus – being God and all – could have gotten on OK without baptism? Without the Holy Spirit?
According to the witness of Scripture, that’s not how it worked. As fully God and fully human, Jesus Christ underwent baptism and relied upon the anointing of the Holy Spirit throughout his ministry.
This is one of the reasons why it’s very theologically dangerous to try and make God live up to our own expectations of him, instead of allowing him to shape our expectations!
The fact that the God-human Jesus Christ was baptized and anointed with the Holy Spirit show us that we desperately need both. We need to be brought into the people of God through baptism and constantly sustained as the people of God by the Holy Spirit.
The Thirty-Nine Articles on Baptism and the Holy Spirit
This Collect Reflection is not the place to offer a full account of Christian doctrine concerning the Holy Spirit and/or of Baptism. However, I do think we have space to look at the relevant articles from the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion on these matters.
(5. Of the Holy Ghost.) The Holy Ghost, proceeding from the Father and the Son, is of one substance, majesty, and glory, with the Father and the Son, very and eternal God.
(27. Of Baptism.) Baptism is not only a sign of profession, and mark of difference, whereby Christian men are discerned from others that be not christened, but it is also a sign of Regeneration or New-Birth, whereby, as by an instrument, they that receive Baptism rightly are grafted into the Church; the promises of the forgiveness of sin, and of our adoption to be the sons of God by the Holy Ghost, are visibly signed and sealed, Faith is confirmed, and Grace increased by virtue of prayer unto God.
The Baptism of young Children is in any wise to be retained in the Church, as most agreeable with the institution of Christ.
(If you’d like to read more about Baptism in particular, check out the previous post Getting Over the Hurdle of Infant Baptism: An Atonement Argument, as well as A Baptismal Affront.)
What does this mean for us, today?
If you haven’t been baptized, you need to come to Christ and be baptized! Become a part of Christ’s Church! Feel free to contact me if you have questions about this (@joshuapsteele; joshuapsteele.com).
If you have been baptized, then you can join in with this week’s Collect in asking God to “grant to us, who are born again by water and the Spirit, that we may be faithful to our calling as your adopted children.”
Brothers and sisters, we can take heart in the fact that we have been born again by water and the Spirit. We have been adopted as God’s children.
And we desperately need this encouragement (especially in the January doldrums!) because there is still work to be done!
Although we (especially we Gentile Christians) have something to celebrate at Epiphanytide, the Great Commission remains. We Christians are still called to do what Christ commanded:
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. (Matt. 28:19-20a)
So, my baptized brothers and sisters: What can you do this week to help fulfill the Great Commission? I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the Epiphany.