Today we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord. Confusingly, this happened when Jesus was an adult, and not as a child. So why does the church celebrate it here at the end of the Christmas season?
Before Jesus began his public ministry (his preaching, miracles, gathering disciples, etc.) he went to the Jordan River. His cousin John was there baptizing many people. Baptism was a ritual of repentance, and a ritual of death and new life. You cleanse your body with water on the outside, and commit to a new life on the inside. There were also many examples in the Old Testament of the whole people of Israel being “baptized” through the actions of the Lord himself (Noah and his family surviving the flood, the Hebrews crossing the Red Sea out of Egypt, Joshua leading the people over the Jordan into Israel, etc.). This time, John was preaching for people to prepare themselves for something big. There was a Messiah coming, a savior for their people.
Along comes Jesus, who wants to get baptized too. Needless to say, John knows who Jesus is. In the account from Matthew’s gospel, John the Baptist tells him, “I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me?” Jesus replies, “Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Mt 3:14-15 NABRE).
What does he mean? Why would Jesus want to get baptized, if he doesn’t need to repent of anything? I think we need to look at Jesus’ mission. To sum it up briefly: God the Son became man, that man might become God. So, in order to fully unite himself to humanity, in order to be like us in all things but sin, Jesus undergoes this ritual. Jesus humbles himself, and fully embraces his humanity. And this, friends, is why we celebrate this feast in the same season as Christ’s birth. Both the feast of the Nativity and the Baptism of the Lord highlight the humility of Jesus. In both places, he clearly displayed his desire to become one with us, so that he can raise us up with him.
So how can we live out this feast day? I think the key is to remember that Jesus is one with us now! We are the body of Christ. The equipping and the anointing that He received at His baptism is ours now as well! Jesus actually received two things at His baptism: He received the anointing of the Holy Spirit AND he received the love of the Father. “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased”. In our lives, we need to humble ourselves like Jesus did, we need to know and acknowledge the love of our Father (and therefore know our identity as sons and daughters of God) and receive the power and anointing of the Holy Spirit. And as the second reading in 1 John says, there will also be a baptism of blood. The Lord will call us, like Christ, to sacrifice. All of these will equip us for OUR mission and public ministry on earth.
Songs for Reflection:
I See Heaven – Bryan and Katie Torwalt
Open up the Heavens – Meredith Andrews
Holy Spirit – Bryan and Katie Torwalt
All Who Are Thirsty – Brenton Brown
Glory in the Highest – Chris Tomlin
Prepare the Way – Charlie Hall
Joy (Unspeakable Joy) – Chris Tomlin
Brendan is just your average Millennial hipster: He likes playing guitar, throwing frisbees, sipping whiskey, and grooming his beard. But he also has a passion for walking with teens and young Christ-followers, hearing every person’s story, and waking up the Church. Brendan works at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Lenexa, Kansas (near Kansas City) as a Youth Music Minister, fusing together his two loves of sharing Christ and sharing the power and need for good and beautiful contemporary praise. https://www.instagram.com/brendanbeardo/
Feature Image Credit: Didgeman, https://pixabay.com/photos/church-window-baptism-sacrament-1016443/