In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”–Mark 1:9-11
My friend’s Facebook status update was outraged. Someone had stolen Mary and baby Jesus from her church’s outdoor nativity. “There is just something so wrong about stealing Jesus from a church!” she said.
And of course, stealing is wrong (trust me, I’m a pastor). But my first thought on hearing the news was not, “Who steals Jesus from a church?” but, “Who expects Jesus to stay where we put him?”
The God who tears open the heavens is not a God we can keep in a box or on a string, or even in the manger. This God is a God on the loose. A God who tears down barriers, whether it’s opening the heavens at Jesus’ baptism or ripping apart the temple curtain at Jesus’ death.
A God who is not shy about naming and claiming Jesus: “You are my Son, the beloved. With you I am well-pleased.” A God who names and claims us, too. That’s what Epiphany is all about:
A star so bright that foreigners follow it from a distant country.
A voice so mighty it breaks cedar trees and shakes the wilderness.
A love so deep it crosses time and space and never lets us go.
Thanks be to God!