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January-February 2020 - The Baptism of Christ

January 1, 2020 by Kathryn Kimball
Artist: Daniel Bonnell (USA, Contemporary)

In an essay, artist Daniel Bonnell describes his contemplative process of “being present with a work of art, sitting in silence, visually listening.” Intrigued by the idea of “listening” with my eyes, I was reminded of the practice of lectio divina in which a passage of scripture is read several times so that the reader may gain fresh and deeper insight into its meaning and message. I decided to accept Bonnell’s challenge and do my best to visually listen to this piece of art.

As I listened to the image, I first noticed Jesus rising from the waters and imagined I could hear God’s voice surrounding him in a bright light declaring, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17, KJV). Next, my eyes were drawn to the Holy Spirit hovering over Christ, the shape of the dove’s wings mirroring the shape of Jesus’ arms and head. Christ is in the position he held on the cross, his hands bearing the weight of his body and his head bowed down. As I “listened” closely, I realized that Jesus’ feet lay one on top of the other with blood showing the nail wounds, the cross extending beyond his feet.

With this detail, Bonnell helps us understand that through baptism we are connected to Christ and the promise of our own resurrection. Like Jesus, who is surrounded by the light of God’s voice and the blue ripples of the baptismal waters, we are not alone. God is with us.

As we approach the season of Lent, let us strive to listen with our eyes and hearts, seeking out the presence of God in our lives.

Cover art courtesy of Daniel Bonnell. © 2005 Daniel Bonnell.  Prints of cover art are available from

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The Upper Room magazine's mission is to provide a practical way to listen to scripture, connect with believers around the world, and spend time with God each day.

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