In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the face of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. (Genesis 1:1-2)
Before even the dawn of creation, before the first ‘let there be…and it was so,’ while it was still dark, the Spirit of God hovered over the waters. The picture is of a bird in flight. The Holy Spirit hovers over the waters of creation, wings flapping like a hummingbird, flitting to and fro. At the moment creations sprang into being and light burst forth in darkness, the Holy Spirit was there. When God spoke and reality took shape, the Holy Spirit was there. At the moment when the waters receded and dry ground appeared, the Holy Spirit was there. When the water, land, and air all filled with life, life, and more life, the Spirit hovered. At the moment of creation, we see heaven and earth, water, the voice of God, and a hovering, bird-like Spirit.
There is at least one other story in the Bible where the Holy Spirit hovers. Matthew 4 records it this way:
And when Jesus was baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my son, the Beloved, with whom I am well-pleased.” (Matt. 4:16-17)
Jesus’ baptism echoes the story of creation. It has all the same elements: water, heaven and earth, the voice of God, and the bird-like Spirit. Even at Jesus’ baptism, the Holy Spirit hovers. These echoes tell me that in some mysterious way, baptism is connected to creation. Just as the cosmos came into being with the presence of the hovering Spirit and the clear voice of God, so at our baptisms, when we are baptized into Christ, we experience a new creation. We experience the Spirit hovering over the waters, and hear the clear voice of God claiming us as his own. Baptism is a sign and seal that we are made new.
Creation is echoed in the new creation. Our being made in the image of God finds its fulfillment in our being baptized into Christ. And all of this happens in and through the work of the hovering Spirit. Creation and new creation happen while the Spirit hovers.
Lord, help me to remember my baptism. In Jesus Christ and by your Spirit, make me new. Form me into the likeness of Christ, and graft me into his body. Amen.