The humiliation of incarnation.

Homily 575 – Theophany
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
January 6, 2023

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God.

Note:  This homily was delivered extemporaneously, and is transcribed with light editing.

Today we’ve come to the baptism of Christ. We also see in the gospel reading for today why in the West the feast is not called Theophany but Epiphany.

The word basically means the same thing.  It’s a revelation to or revelation of something.  With me, Theophany is a revelation of God and Epiphany would mean that’s a revelation to us – our revelation. We are the one to have an Epiphany.

And so when we look at that, what we’re seeing here is not just the importance of Christ’s obedience to God to be baptized. John’s obedience to Christ that he be the one to baptize Him.

We see the revelation of the entirety of everything in this one feast which is WHY this feast was the most important feast other than Pascha in the ancient times. We see the revelation of Everything, that is we see God the Father telling us that this Jesus Christ is His Son, the Word of God, the second person of the Trinity.

We see the Holy Spirit descending in the form of a dove. We see Christ’s obedience and we also see all these things that are coming in to plan. Sometimes it’s good to remember these things that happen because when these things happen, they remind us that what we see and what we feel and what we contact in the world is not what God created it to be.

What we see is a world that’s fallen. What we see is a world that is crumbling. We see a world that is subject to corruption.

What does that mean subject to corruption? It means it doesn’t have life. It is in the process of dying and decaying. So whenever you hear or see someone in the world say “Well this is the way God made it”, no far from it! This is not what God made. God, yes, made it but God made it unfallen. We made it fall.

We are the one who brought the world – the creation, the cosmos – into this decaying, dead process. And we did that because of our own ego.

I think about in my own life and times – unemployed or underemployed or how do you want to look at it – and I thought – and I confess that many times I would think to myself, I would apply for that job, but that job is beneath me you know?

I don’t want to be a custodian. I mean my father-in-law was and he found joy and peace in being a custodian, and he took care of his family. I had no right and no reason to be able to say that job is beneath me. I’m thinking, “I’m a college-educated guy! I’ve got licenses and professional reputations and all this other stuff!”

That’s my confession but now take that, and think about Christ, the second person of the Trinity, the Son of God enthroned at the right hand of God from all eternity. The one through whom God made all of this – Creation –and the will of the Father was that Christ come here and not just be God in this world, but to be incarnate. To become part of creation. To become a human.

How beneath him was that? We look at the circumstances around his birth, unwedded mother – betrothed but unwedded – in Bethlehem, with no place to stay. He was homeless. He was born in a stable with animals. He was laid for his first bed as incarnate God on this planet, he was laid in a manger.

It’s sure the icons that we see of the nativity tell us that revealed to us that even in that moment, when he was wrapped in swallowing clothes, that was foretelling of his death and burial.

You will see him in the icons of the nativity, wrapped in burial clothes and lying in a manger that ostensibly looks very much like a tomb, a coffin.

From the very beginning we see what Christ was doing. Christ never owned anything other than the clothes on his back. He didn’t have a job. He didn’t have means to support himself.

When He came to John, John recognized what was happening, and Jesus was then treated like the person He was – the Son of God – and yet still in that treatment he was given, He offered humility.

He said, “No John you have to baptize me because this is the Will of God.”

So as we go through our days on this sojourn in this place, remember who we are as sons and daughters of God, as members of the Kingdom of Heaven.

But also remember that we imitate our Lord in everything that we do. That we serve others in every way that we can, just as Christ washed the feet of the apostles.

How humbling has Christ ascended the cross and sacrificed his own ego in the garden of Eden? In the garden of Gethsemane, the new Eden. We remember these things and we imitate these things and we no longer think these things are beneath me. Rather we think this is what Jesus would have done.

He would have served. He would have found, even sought out, the unlovable – the ones who are dismissed by society. Those who are even dismissed by the rest of the Christian world.

Those are the people that Christ would have looked for and would have served.

And I encourage us to do the same because, beloved, when we find that humility, when we’re able to offer ourselves to others with abandon, with freedom, the same freedom that Christ had:  that’s when we find the essence of who we are.

That’s when we find the joy of living in the Kingdom, and that’s where we find eternal life

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God.