We begin this Sunday with the return to the ordinary schedule of Sundays with this Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. Note that the beginning of the public ministry and life of Jesus occurred with his baptism in the River Jordan and that is why we begin our ordinary Sunday time of the church year with this feast. In fact, in the three synoptic (eyewitness point of view) Gospels, namely Matthew, Mark, and Luke, this scene of the Baptism of the Lord is the first common story for all that launches the Ministry and Mission of Jesus in direct and clear ways. Ironically, as baptism signaled the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and life of faith, it also signals the beginning of ours as well.
For most of us, baptism begins at the font when we are an infant and held in our parents’ arms. However, it does not all end there. Note clearly that baptism is a promise with a future, not fulfillment with an end. Baptism is for growth and life, growth into communion with all others and sharing of life with those who have been baptized. When we are immersed in the waters of baptism, we rise because of God’s grace and power. We call that power now in us the Holy Spirit.
In our Gospel today the people who approached John for baptism were all set and ready to go. They were searching for a new leader who would be both king and liberator. John barked at them that he was not the one they were seeking, for a mightier one than he would be coming soon with a baptism of Spirit and fire. The fire reference recalls the ceremony of fire linked with ancient agreements. God’s presence, also, was recognized with fire. John desired the folks to realize that baptism with fire means not only a complete purification but also the presence of God (the Holy Spirit).
In the Gospel passage, we learn that the Holy Spirit comes upon Jesus and designates him the long-awaited Messiah. Most of the people at this time did not understand this truth about Jesus, but after Pentecost they certainly did. Needless to say, the author of this passage certainly understood clearly.
As the new calendar year begins, the story of the necessary baptism of Jesus signals his journey from life to death. This first very revealing chapter of Jesus’ life story and its meaning is set before us. This story will be told and understood through the bright light of the Resurrection. We are invited to take it all in and make it ours.
This Sunday brings the Christmas season to a close. This weekend our scripture invites us to think about our own identity as a believer in Christ. This Feast is meant for us to reflect upon our own baptism and what it should mean as we grow and live life. This weekend we are asked to consider how we accept the reality of Christ “Emmanuel” and live his life and message. Ultimately we realize, as the story of Christ is told, that we have also been baptized into his Death and Resurrection and are, indeed, his daughters and sons. We need to remember that we are God’s beloved despite how well or poorly we act as God’s beloved. Indeed we need to pray and strive to be faithful to our baptismal identification with God’s Son, to follow his path of service,and to be as open to God as God is to us.
As baptized Christians, we have been favored with a share of the light and life of Jesus, God’s “favored One.” We often forget this great gift of God to us. The light of Christ that shines at Christmas always guides our steps and path, especially when we are lost and seeking the way or looking to be found. Remember always to live in the Light of Christ and share it with others.
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