January 8, 2017
Today's service is another "feast;" is Christmas over yet?
The short answer is, "it's complicated."
First, a few words about the feast. This feast is a creation of the twentieth century. Although a recognition of this event in the life of Jesus goes back, at least, to the Gospels because Matthew, Mark, and Luke each have an account of the event (we are reading Matthew's account today), and the Gospel of John implies the event (John 1:29-34).
Depending on the church tradition one follows, Eastern Orthodox (in its various local forms), where it is an integral part of the Epiphany celebration; Roman Catholicism, which sets aside January 13 (a fixed calendar date); Anglicanism, which allows for the celebration of Epiphany on January 6, 7 or 8, if those dates are Sundays and for the celebration of the Baptism either on the Sunday following January 6, or the Monday following January 7 or 8; or Episcopalianism, the feast is recognized on the Sunday following January 6, where Epiphany is always celebrated on that fixed date. Whew! Got that?
It seems that for the Orthodox and Anglicans, the Feast of the Baptism on Our Lord is the final day of the Christmas season. In the Roman Catholic Church Epiphany is the ultimate day. And in the Episcopal Church . . . wait for it, Epiphany is probably the date but the congregation has the option to continue Christmas prayers and blessings through the Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord, making the first Sunday after the Epiphany officially, officially the last day of Christmas, or, by local custom—the one I have chosen—part of the season after the Epiphany.
By choosing the second option and including "the Baptism" in the season of Epiphany, I have put the Baptism as part of the manifestation, or the revealing of the divine nature in the person of Jesus, an emphasis that fits the descent of the Holy Spirit onto Jesus in the Baptism of John at the River Jordan (Matthew 3:13-17) and affirmed by the voice of God in calling Jesus his beloved.
Onto practicalities. If your Christmas decorations are up (like those of St. Francis through Friday) it is now time to take them down for storage until next year. This is an important Baptismal date, a date recommended for "renewal of Baptismal Vows," even if there are no baptisms to be had, and for baptisms themselves, which we do, in the form of Arthur William Kim at the 9:00 AM service.
And so, until December 24 of 2017, we move away from Incarnation into manifestation and all the wonders thereof.
The Rev. David Lucey