The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (2020)
Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7
Psalms 29:1-4, 9-10
Acts of the Apostles 10:34-38
The iconic announcement by his sidekick, Ed McMahon, always started the opening of late-night television and the beginning of Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show: “Heeeeeeeere’s Johnny!” In many ways, the readings for this Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, in real time and in the Scriptures, boldly announces “Heeeeeeere’s Jesus!” We are privileged in this year’s cycle of readings to be able to celebrate the Baptism of Jesus, and our own baptism, as the Church closes out the official Christmas season, once again beginning the season of Ordinary Time.
The infant whose birth we celebrated such a short time ago, is now all grown up, and ready to begin His public ministry. In Matthew’s gospel Jesus chooses to begin His ministry by going down to the Jordan river where John is baptizing. John, the last of the Old Testament prophets and the first of the New Testament, is portrayed as knowing who Jesus truly is, for he is uncomfortable baptizing Jesus: “I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me?” It is only Jesus’ assurance to “allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” John’s premonition that there was something unusual about this baptism in comparison with all of his other baptisms, was confirmed when the “heavens opened,” the “Spirit of God descended like a dove,” and the voice of God thundered from the heavens: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
While it is unlikely that the heavens opened or that God thundered during our baptisms, what is most important and described by Matthew is what happens each and every time water is poured three times over an infant’s (most often) head, and the words are spoken “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” In Baptism, God claims us as His children, just as He recognized Jesus as Son, and God sends His Spirit down to abide with us and inspire us to live what we proclaim – that we are all sons and daughters of a loving God. Jesus shares His sonship with us that we might be reflections of God’s glory.
How do we know our baptism worked? The readings help us discern what the effects of the Spirit should be in our lives, for God does not send down His Spirit on Jesus or us to lay dormant. The Spirit is meant to cause us to go “about doing good,” to “bring forth justice,” to heal “those oppressed by the devil,” to “bring out prisoners from confinement,” and to be a “light for the nations.” That light shows that we “fear God” and “act uprightly,” and it brings to people a “peace” that only God can give. Furthermore, the humility which drove the very Son of God to the Jordan River, should be visible in our lives, for we are truly unworthy that God’s Son took on human flesh to make us children of God.
Let us strive to live our lives in such a way that others will come to know the love of a generous and caring God. May we be mindful of our baptisms and strive to live our lives with the kind of integrity which frees us from the threat of hypocrisy. Let the Collect for today’s liturgy be our prayer: “Almighty ever-living God, who, when Christ had been baptized in the River Jordan and as the Holy Spirit descended upon Him, solemnly declare Him your beloved Son, grant that your children by adoption, reborn of water and the Holy Spirit, may always be well pleasing to you.”