It happens all the time around the holidays. It happens at weddings, at reunions. It’s an important part of first communion and baptism. It’s the family picture. Taking a family picture is a way to remember that on this day, at this time in our lives, we were together.
On Christmas Eve our family took our usual family photo. Because Dan is out of town for training, his photo is with us by ipad.
The family photo at an event doesn’t exactly create an event and usually doesn’t create the relationships. Instead, it documents the relationship. And it gives proof that these people were together, at least at this moment.
That’s why we’re so excited when someone says, “I never knew that person” and we can produce a photo to prove them wrong. Or when someone says, “I can’t believe you were with that famous person” and we can produce a photo to prove us right.
That’s what Matthew does for us on the day of Jesus’ baptism. Jesus goes into the water. He comes out of the water. And suddenly, there’s a family picture.
The sky seems to open. What looks like a dove flies down and lands on him. And there is a voice, from heaven, with the words every son wants to hear: “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
It’s the first family portrait of God that we have record of. There are references to God being present all through the Old Testament. There are voices and actions and appearances described from time to time during the millennia that are covered. A bush that appears to be burning. A ladder all the way to heaven. A quiet voice. The words to the prophets.
But to have what we call the Godhead, Father, Son and Spirit, all in the frame at the same time? This was a first.
Which makes sense, of course. This is the moment of the beginning of the public work of Jesus. It’s the first time that his relationship is acknowledged directly, rather than indirectly through angels to Mary and to Joseph.
It’s not like the relationship started here. But this moment is the moment where the fundamental change in history, God with us, begins to be evident to everyone.