January 8, 2022
Isaiah 42:1-9 Psalm 29 Acts 10:34-43 Matthew 3:13-17
Friday night several of us gathered at the Barnett Farm for a 12th Night Celebration. This was a party to celebrate the arrival of the Magi and the official end of Christmas. We gathered around a fire pit and burned the greens we had used to decorate our church. The coming of the wise men from the East and the light from the fire, both represent Christ’s coming. Jesus comes into our world bringing his light to shine on people from every tribe and nation. Christ’s coming marks a new beginning for all of humanity.
We mark this new beginning with today’s celebration of the Baptism of our Lord on this, the first Sunday in Epiphany. And, we mark this new beginning with the baptism today (at 10:30) of Dean Anthony Sullins and Collin James Hetrick. The sacrament of baptism is not only a symbol of our commitment to live and raise our children in the Christian faith, it is reminder that in Christ we are a new creation. Christ brings the light of truth and love into our lives equipping us to share God’s love with others.
The baptism of Jesus in the gospels marks the beginning of his public ministry. All four gospels have an account of this and in Matthew’s account we hear that when Jesus comes up from the water, the heavens open to him and he sees the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. Then a voice from heaven says, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” Whether or not anyone other than Jesus hears this, Matthew does not say. Regardless, these words reveal to us the nature of Jesus. Jesus is the son of God. He has come to reconcile our relationship with God.
Growing up, and even as an adult, hearing my father say he was proud of me meant a great deal to me. It filled my heart with joy and encouraged me to continue doing what I was doing. In our baptisms, we are not only called to do that which is pleasing to God, our father, we are making a commitment to live a certain way.
The people coming to John to be baptized were doing so to make a fresh start. They came in humility to be cleansed of their sins and start again. This is something we may do each Sunday; I do. I come reflecting on my week, confess my sins, receive forgiveness, and leave to try again to do what gives me life, a life that fulfills the promises I make every time we have a baptism. For doing what I say I will do in the covenant of baptism gives my life meaning, and it is pleasing in God’s sight.
Our Baptismal Covenant begins with the Apostles Creed in which we affirm our faith in God, the creator of heaven and earth, in the resurrected Jesus whose love redeems us, and the Holy Spirit who sustains us. Then we promise to be faithful in following the apostle’s teaching by gathering to learn, to support one another, to worship, and to pray. We promise to persevere in resisting evil, and when we fail, to return to God and try again. We promise to be an example of God’s love, we promise to look for the Christ within all persons and to serve them – including the people who annoy us. And, we promise to strive for justice and peace and respect every human being.
Today, the parents and Godparents of Collin and Dean will commit to raise them in our faith. As they make these commitments, we will also renew our own baptismal vows. Baptisms are a new beginning for everyone. It is deeply personal and it is outwardly challenging. It does not change the world around us, but it can change how we view and respond to all that is happening in our world. Our new beginning draws its strength from the Holy Spirit.
In baptism we are sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked as Christ’s own forever. Internalizing this can help us see the world through the eyes of Christ and respond to hatred with love and seek unity rather than division. Thus, our new beginning is a spiritual one which changes our relationships with others, allowing us to see beyond what others may say or do and to know that we are beloved children of God.
Let us pray.
Loving and gracious God, we give you thanks for the love you have made known to us through your Son, Our Lord, Jesus Christ. Help us, we pray, to draw our strength from your Holy Spirit that we might do all that is pleasing in your sight. We offer our prayers in the name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Amen.