And when Jesus had been 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. Matthew 3: 16 NRSV
Why is the Spirit (here the Spirit of God rather than the Holy Spirit) like a dove in the baptismal stories? I guess I am more familiar with the tongues of fire over the heads of the new converts in the Pentecost story of Acts. When I think back over the Bible, I do recall the the dove was the animal that informed Noah that the waters had receded and that God was done with the punishment of humans.
Well, I guess I answered my own question, even though I didn't realize it until I re-read the sentence I just typed! The dove reminds us of 1) healthy, positive water - here the waters of baptism, 2) hope and new life in the world and 3) God is doing/ is going to do some redemptive work rather than punitive work through Jesus.
Thank you, God, for your Spirit! May your Spirit descend on us, redeeming us, giving us hope and new life! Amen.