Sunday, January 11, 2009

Reflection for the Baptism of Jesus Mark 1:7-11

Over the past several weeks, we have read many fantastic stories surrounding Jesus’ conception, birth, and infancy. We have read about an angel appearing to a young girl to tell her that she would bear a son and name him Jesus. We have heard of an angel appearing in a dream to the girl’s betrothed to tell him not to be afraid. We have heard of this miraculous child’s birth in a lowly manger, and of visits by shepherds. We have heard of three kings who followed the star and brought the child seemingly odd gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. If we were to wonder who this child is about whom we have read and who he will become, our answer may come in the excerpt from Mark’s gospel that we read tonight.
As we listened to this reading, we witnessed the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan by John. With all of the wonder surrounding Jesus’ birth, and the certainty that this extraordinary child has grown to be an extraordinary man, it seems strange that Jesus would choose to be baptized by John – yet this baptism continues to help us unravel the mystery of who Jesus is. As John baptized Jesus, Mark tells us, Jesus saw “the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, my Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” At this point if we had not already believed so, we would have known that Jesus is no ordinary person, and that Jesus’ acceptance of John’s baptism is yet another event that heralds the dawn of the messianic era and tells us that the new world is finally to come into being.
As we follow Jesus through the gospels, the elements of wonder and awe never leave. Through many stories, we hear Jesus challenge, teach, and heal people so that they and we may get a small glimmer of understanding of the tremendous love that God has for all people. Jesus is truly Emmanuel – God With Us. What a precious gift God has given us in Jesus! If that were not enough, God sent the Son not only to live with us, but to endure suffering and death so that God might welcome us into eternal life, into dwelling with God forever in love. If we view Jesus’ baptism with the same measure of wonder and awe with which we approach the nativity, we cannot help but be amazed and humbled by the magnanimous love of God for us. How very lucky we are! This love, which echoes through the ages, is made known to us through our own baptism.
Through baptism, we are born into the wonder and mystery of God, set free from our tendency towards sin and isolation, and welcomed into a community of believers. Through baptism, we can rejoice in the many gifts that God gives to us and come to know the supreme Love that surrounds us. These gifts stretch beyond the bounds of this life and lead us into eternal life – back to our home with God. This call to live in God’s love through baptism does not end at the moment that we receive the sacrament, but extends beyond that moment and impels us to receive others as Christ would receive them and so build up the community of believers. It is our responsibility to share the love that we have received.
The waters of baptism are the waters that change the face of our world. Baptism restores us into right relationship with God and is the threshold of even greater things to come. This evening, as we remember the Baptism of Jesus, let us gratefully celebrate the great gift of God’s love to us and to our world by reaching out to others and helping them come to know Emmanuel – God is for us, God is with us, God is in us. How very blessed we are.

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