February 2, 2010
When Jesus was baptized, immediately He went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on Him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, "This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased." Matthew 3:16-17
So, do you remember where you were and what you did last Epiphany?
You really don't have to answer that question. I'm impressed anytime someone from the western branch of the Christian Church remembers Epiphany is the day to celebrate the coming of the Wise Men to worship the baby Jesus.
If anyone remembers the day and what he or she was doing, well, that's a bonus.
On the other hand, if you are a member of the Russian Orthodox Church and live in Moscow or just about any city in that immense land, I would be surprised if you didn't remember what you did last Epiphany.
Why the difference?
In the Russian Orthodox Church, Epiphany marks the baptism of the Savior. In many places it is celebrated by the local church by cutting a very large cross-shaped hole into the ice of a local river. When that is done, many of the believers from the church jump into the water as a remembrance of Jesus' work and their baptisms.
This year that meant people jumped into the river when it was about 13 degrees below zero outside (Fahrenheit).
One man, his hair frozen into mini-icicles, said, "After the Epiphany dive, all your illnesses, all your problems just fade away." Now if you're thinking that custom is a bit strange, you won't get any argument from me. And if you're thinking that's the kind of custom that is probably dying off, well, you'd be absolutely wrong.
More and more people -- young people -- are participating in the ceremony.
There are probably all kinds of reasons why they would do such a thing, but more than one has said this: "Jesus suffered for me and His baptism was the beginning of that suffering. I suffer for a moment to remember how His suffering, His death, and His resurrection have taken away my sins."
If that's what they believe, that's wonderful! I'll join them!
-- in the belief, that is, not the river.
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus, I give thanks for all You did for my salvation. Help me. Help me remember and share with others the love and sacrifice You made so my sins might be washed away. In Your Name, I ask it. Amen.
Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries