Baptism of the Lord
Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7
Psalm 29:1-2, 3-4, 3, 9-10 (11b)
January 12, 2020
Christmas day was 18 days ago. We began our Christmas season with the story of the birth of our savior “who is Christ and Lord.” Then, we celebrated Jesus, Mary, and Joseph as the Holy Family and heard of their flight to Egypt and their return.
Then we honored Mary as Mother of God. Last Sunday was the Epiphany of the Lord, the visit of the magi. Today, our Christmas season draws to a close with our celebration of the Baptism of the Lord.
Up to this point, everything we have celebrated on Sundays and Holy Days during our Christmas season has been from the infancy of Jesus. So, knowing that Jesus was baptized as an adult, why do we hear about the Baptism of the Lord as part of our Christmas season?
Of course, today we baptize babies. So, the discussion of a birth of a baby could naturally lead to a discussion of baptism.
However, I don’t think that fully explains why we end our Christmas season with the story of Jesus’ baptism.
Why was Jesus born?
He came to be a savior.
What has Jesus done as our savior. Ultimately, He was crucified for our sins but He had much to do in his public ministry. His public ministry began at his Baptism. From there, He did mighty deeds and proclaimed God’s Word.
So, we end our Christmas season with the Baptism of the Lord to think about the purpose of his birth, our salvation.
John baptized many people in the Jordan River. However, when Jesus comes to him to be baptized, John the Baptist knows he is not worthy, trying “to prevent him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me!””
Jesus replied simply, “Allow it now, for thus is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” It is what God wants and John does what God wants.
So why did Jesus come to be baptized? What is baptism? What effect does it have?
First, we need to understand that John’s baptism was not the same as we celebrate Baptism today.
John’s baptism was for one purpose, the forgiveness of sins.
Jesus had no sins. Thus, He didn’t need baptism for forgiveness. Yet, it was “fitting” for Jesus to be baptized. He sets an example for us.
Jesus, as Son of God, took the baptism of John and made it something more.
What happened when Jesus “came up from the water”?
“The heavens were opened for him.”
Thus, in Baptism, Heaven is opened for us. We are adopted into God’s family. We are God’s children with Jesus as our brother. When we open ourselves to the grace of Baptism we are “inwardly transformed”.
Who can be baptized? Everyone, for “God shows no partiality. Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him.”
What else did we see in the Baptism of Jesus? “The Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming upon him.”
Through the prophet Isaiah, we hear the significance of the one who receives God’s spirit to “bring forth justice” but without shouting or “making his voice heard.” Jesus does not force faith upon anyone. Each person is to choose to accept the gift of faith.
In our Baptism, like Jesus, we receive the Holy Spirit and are sealed with the Spirit in Confirmation. In Baptism, we are chosen. We are called by the one who formed us.
After baptism with water, one is anointed with the Sacred Chrism to be a priest, prophet, and king like Jesus. We are called to make sacrifices, share God’s Word, and serve others following the example of Jesus.
I said it is our choice to accept the gift of faith. With faith comes responsibility, a responsibility to follow Jesus and help others do the same.
We don’t always feel adequate for this. That’s why God gives us the Spirit. Alone we are limited but with the Holy Spirit we can accomplish what God calls us to.
Most of us were baptized as babies. That means our parents made the choice to be baptized for us. Thus, one who doesn’t want to do what Jesus calls to, might think I didn’t accept my baptismal promises. I hope no one thinks that way but I fear one might.
However, when we are confirmed, part of this Sacrament is the renewal of baptismal promises where we say yes for ourselves.
We are also reminded of our baptism every time we enter church and bless ourselves with holy water and the Sign of the Cross. We are saying, “Yes God” I believe and I want to follow you.
At Easter we all renew our baptismal promises, we renew our “yes” to God. We receive Baptism and Confirmation each only once in our lifetime. We are forever marked by Baptism and Confirmation. We call this an indelible mark that imparts a sacramental character upon us.
We say “yes” at our Baptism. We say “yes” at our Confirmation but really we need to say yes to God everyday of our lives.