Today we continue our journey through the season of Christmas … and yet that great drama seems to be over.
- After their long journey to Bethlehem, Mary and Joseph have welcomed their son into the world;
- the heavenly host has sung;
- the shepherds have seen their Messiah in the manger, glorified him and praised him;
- the Magi have followed the star, left their gifts, and gone home by another road.
So … as we continue our journey through the season of Christmas, what good news is there left for today? Here … on the other side of Christmas Day … and engulfed by lockdown and isolation … we may feel justified in asking: So, now what?
At first glance, even the Church’s lectionary seems to be struggling … today’s gospel reading takes us back to the gospel we heard on the Second Sunday of Advent … we seem to be right back where we started.
Just a couple of weeks after Christmas Day, we are back in the wilderness … back in line waiting for what John has to offer us: forgiveness of our sins, and immersion in the grace of God.
Of course, today’s gospel reading and that of the Second Sunday of Advent are not exactly the same.
In today’s gospel we are taken beyond John’s baptism. Today we are not left shivering in the wilderness with nothing between us and God except John and the Jordan.
Today … on the other side of Christmas Day … we hear these words:
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’
‘Now what?’ we may well ask.
‘Now Jesus!’ Mark replies.
No matter how convinced we might be in our faith, there are times when our lives are submerged in the waters of chaos.
Just look at Jesus himself … immediately after his baptism and divine affirmation, the Spirit whisked him away to be tempted by the Devil.
In his account of the Baptism of Christ, Mark presents us with an encounter between Jesus and God.
It is only when we have considered what this means to Jesus that we can come to understand what it should mean for us …
This intimate Father/Son moment did not mean that Jesus would be kept out of trouble! Rather, it meant that when trouble did come, Jesus would not find himself standing alone … It meant that even when the odds seemed to be stacked against him, Jesus would still have the Father’s blessing, and the companionship of the Spirit.
And this is precisely what baptism should mean for us as well …
- Jesus’ baptism means that we are not alone in the wilderness.
- Jesus’ baptism means that God’s love for us does not depend on us.
- Jesus’ baptism means that God’s grace does not wash off.
- Jesus’ baptism means that whenever we find ourselves in times such as these, we can be sure that God is with us.
It is said that whenever Martin Luther found himself ready to give up, he would touch his forehead and say to himself: Remember, Martin, you have been baptized.
Here … on the other side of Christmas Day … and in these challenging locked down days … that sounds a really good role model for us to follow … that sounds like Good News.
On this Feast of the Baptism of Christ let us, like Martin Luther, never forget that we have been baptized …
- let us never forget that Jesus was baptized too;
- let us never forget that Jesus was baptized with us and for us.
And … may the comfort that baptism gave Jesus give us even greater comfort as we struggle with the trials of these difficult days.
However insurmountable the troubles may seem, we must never forget that God is with us.
We just need to open our hearts and our minds and say: So, Lord, what do you want of me now? I am ready and I am yours … use me in your service.