Worship in January: An Epiphany Triptych

Christmas culminates at our Epiphany celebration. On the Baptism of our Lord we will celebrate affirmation of baptism.

Among early Christians, the Feast of Epiphany celebrated three events: the birth of Jesus, the baptism of Jesus, and Jesus’ miracle of turning water into wine at the wedding in Cana. Over time, this single celebration broke up into three. This year, we get to celebrate all these Christ events over a period of three Sundays.

Epiphany, January 6, includes the story of the journey of the Magi revealing Christ’s birth for all people. The Baptism of Jesus is celebrated on the next Sunday (January 13), and on the following Sunday, January 20, the Gospel reading is the Miracle at Cana.

The classical triptych is a panel of three paintings interrelated, with the middle panel being the largest of the three. That’s not a bad way to approach these Sundays. Jesus’ baptism shines with God’s brilliant light. All the Gospel writers agree that the baptism is pivotal. Jesus was anointed at the river with God’s spirit to begin his ministry and the work of redeeming the world. Jesus’ birth and the transforming work at Cana surround the event of his baptism where Jesus receives the Spirit and the Father’s endorsement: “You are my Son, the beloved, with you I am well pleased.”