Christmas comes and Christmas goes the Magi head back towards their exotic homeland and Herod sends his soldiers out in rage. There right at the beginning of this manifestation to the world that Christ has come for all we have a Baptism. Well actually we have lots of baptisms as John the Baptist declares again to make the paths straight – just in case you missed it a month previously – and among the throng Jesus, not as an infant but as an adult, dips beneath the waters of the Jordan River.
You remember don’t you that first Sunday in this season of Epiphany, it wasn’t that long ago, how when the Word that was at the beginning of the world rose back out of the water and turned to prayer.
Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” – Luke 3:21-22
Now on this the last Sunday of Epiphany as John the Baptist waits to beckon us once more this time to turn our focus from the Word for all people to what the Word means in our lives a voice from heaven is heard again. Not like before a reassuring voice gentle as the dove for personal encouragement; but a voice in the height of the mountain instructing, declaring, challenging.
Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” – Luke 9:35
Epiphany. this season in which once more we are urged discover just who Jesus is, is rushing to its conclusion. Now having discovered Christ having glimpsed the glory a word is heard and it tells us we need to listen to The Word.
From the highest mountain to the deepest crevice in the ocean floor God is there, from our highest joys to our deepest darkest moments God is with us. We have welcomed Jesus’ birth, we have worshiped him with the Magi, we have seen him rise out of the waters of Baptism, we have joined with the awe of Simeon and Anna, we have seen him transfigured on the mountain, and we have heard God’s voice in the joys and we acknowledge the Christ. Now, now we need to listen and follow him, follow into the desert and along the via dolorosa. For in Pauline terms the Transfiguration is the starting pistols crack that should drive us out of the starting blocks and into the race. Sometimes that race will be difficult, sometimes we might feel like giving in, but Jesus makes it clear that life isn’t going to be easy, or straightforward, or a bed of roses to follow Jesus means we will come up against obstacles, tough choices and painful times.
Now with Epiphany fading the call is to put our faith into practice, don’t just worship but listen to Christ, don’t be on the sidelines but follow him, the Word, the Beloved, the Son of God. Now is the time to turn the other cheek, to repay evil with good, and count our blessings for they far outweigh any burdens we may ever have to bear. And if that all sounds like a tall order remember what Paul tells us in today’s epistle reading; do not lose heart, in the real world there is suffering and hardships but it is through those things we can become more Christlike. Then we will see God’s glory in everything, then we wont feel the need to make tents and stay on the mountain when God is calling us back to the valley to be not only Christ’s hands and feet but also to bear his glorious scars.