Baptism of the Lord:
One of the dangers of Christianity is that we know that the events of scripture took place a long time ago. It has been 2000 years since this little baby was born in the manger. But, the story of Jesus’ life is not just some interesting story. The story of Jesus’ life is not just some time-bound tale of something that happened long ago. Rather, Jesus’ story is always timeless and current.
Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God, he is the Word made flesh. So, everything he did has an impact on all of us. There is a simple maxim that we should all learn, which will help us to interpret and understand the events of the gospel. In the person of Jesus, God became human so that the human race might become like God. God became a man, so that all men and women could become like God. He was like us in all things but sin, so that in everything we do, we can see Christ with us, we can look to Christ as a model and an inspiration.
For the past 2 and ½ weeks we have been celebrating the birthday of Jesus. We have taken some time to reflect on our beautiful manger scene. Unfortunately, the manger scene has to come down today. But, in that baby we see Christ, the Son of God. And how amazing it is that he decided to be born like all of us. Christ could have arrived on a fiery, but he decided to be born of a woman. Why? Because we are all born of women. Christ wanted to become like us in all things.
I think this is the best way for us to understand the baptism of Jesus today. For centuries, thinkers in the Church have tried to understand why Jesus would be baptized. Normally, baptism is a symbol of repentance. Jesus had no sin, no need for repentance. Why submit to baptism? Even John the Baptist had that question at the first moment. Jesus was born of a woman so that he might become like us, but today he gets baptized in the waters of the Jordan so that we might become like him. Jesus climbs into the waters and receives baptism, not so his sins are washed away, but so that ours may be washed away. When Jesus enters the waters of baptism he opens a doorway. Now, everyone who is baptized, from that very moment until the end of time, can be united to Christ. When we are baptized it unites us to Christ, who was also baptized. He indeed became like us in all things, but so that he might lift us up.
Because of our union with Christ in baptism, the words of the Father from heaven get repeated every time another person is baptized. You are my beloved Son, you are my beloved daughter. In the birth of Jesus we see Christ becoming like us, but in baptism we see a chance for us to become like Christ.
So, it is a real danger for us to let these stories stay in the past. It is quite tempting to believe that we are not directly implicated, that these stories don’t have a bearing on our daily life. But, this is not true. When we celebrate the birth of Jesus, we remember that he is like us. When we celebrate his baptism, we remember that baptism unites us to him. Later this spring, when we celebrate his death, we remember that he is with us in our own suffering and dying. But, when we celebrate his rising to new life, we remember that if we are united to him, we will rise also.
Jesus Christ, the Son of God, became human so that all humanity might become like God. So, today, we thank God for the precious gift of baptism which unites us to his Son Jesus, where each of us hears the voice of the heavenly Father say, you are my beloved, in whom I am well-pleased.