January 9, 2022
Look! The wise men have arrived at the manger. It just so happens that this service is being recorded on the Day of Epiphany! (practice saying it) An epiphany is a moment when something is revealed to you. It’s an “Aha!” moment when you recognize something that didn’t make sense before. We celebrate the day of Epiphany on January 6th, as an “Aha!” moment when people realized Jesus was God’s own Son. Specifically, Jesus was revealed to people who weren’t Jews – Gentiles like us. But today, we are celebrating TWO things – not only Jesus giving the wise men their “Aha!” moment, but also Jesus being baptized, and revealed as God’s Son by the Holy Spirit.
Do you know your purpose in life? Do you have a clear idea of why God made you, and what you are supposed to do with this one precious life you’ve been given?
Jesus did. He understood that his primary purpose was to bring us humans into right relationship with God. That was the whole reason he came into the world – God With Us, Emmanuel – not to condemn the world (John 3:17), but to save it. To accomplish that, he had to become one of us.
The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Messiah. John answered them all,
“I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” And with many other words John exhorted the people and proclaimed the good news to them.
When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”Luke 3:15-17, 21-22
The first thing Luke wants us to know is that John the Baptist isn’t Jesus. That may seem like a no-brainer to us, but at the time these events take place, people weren’t so sure. People think maybe he IS Messiah. But John compares what he is doing to what Messiah will do in terms of the elements. “I can get you wet,” he says, “But Messiah will do much more than that.”
John’s emphasis is on action – what Messiah will do. John may bathe you with water to symbolize the washing away of your sins, but the One who is coming will breathe Holy Spirit into you and burn away all the chaff.
Jesus is not only immersed in water, he is immersed in the light of God’s presence, and the breath of Holy Spirit. His baptism is not for the forgiveness of sins, like all those other people coming to be baptized. Jesus is baptized into his mission, the mission the Father has given him – to redeem the world, to save us from our sins.
And God is pleased with him. “This is my son, whom I love, and with whom I am well pleased.”
When we allow ourselves to become fully immersed in God’s mission to make right what is wrong, to heal what is hurt, to save what is headed for destruction, we can know God’s pleasure just as surely as Jesus did there on the banks of the Jordan river.
When we commit ourselves completely to following Jesus – not only in baptism, but in every aspect of living, we can experience the full depth of God’s love for us.
See what love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God – and that is what we are! (1 John 3:1)
Almighty and loving Father, we want to dive in, but we aren’t sure how deep the water is. We want to submerge ourselves in your life-giving floods, but we are afraid of drowning, Lord. Help us to know the peace that comes with trusting in you. Give us the courage to dive into your promises and help us submit our wills to your will. Make us your own. Fill us with the life-giving breath of your Holy Spirit. Let your fire burn in our hearts, we pray in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
I invite you, if you have some water at home with you – a bowl, a pitcher or a glass of water – to dip your fingers in it and remember your own baptism. And be thankful!
Now, on this Baptism of our Lord Sunday, I am going to try to get you wet… because I want everyone to feel the water, and to know that God loves us so much, he washes away our sins in the act of baptism, and makes us his very own. So, remember that you are baptized! And be thankful! (asperges).