Eucharist – The Baptism of Jesus – 10th Jan 2021
This Sunday is the feast of the Baptism of Christ: the day when we remember Christ’s own wonderful baptism at the hands of John the Baptist in the River Jordan all those years ago.
It was certainly a dramatic occasion! We read that the heavens were ‘torn apart’ (I always imagine a huge explosion with the clouds parting and great beams of light shining through the clouds – a bit like something out of Star Wars!) Then, the Spirit gently descends through the clouds like a dove and alights upon Jesus, filling him head to toe with the gentle love, grace and peace of God. And then, as if that wasn’t enough, the Father’s voice is heard – which I always imagine to be a booming voice a bit like the Wizard from the Wizard of Oz (prior, that is, to Toto pulling back the curtain) – saying 3 remarkable things that would change Jesus’ life forever: ‘You are my Son, the Beloved, with you I am well pleased!’
A dramatic day indeed! But today is not only a day for remembering Jesus’ baptism but also for remembering our own baptism too, because when we were baptised, the same things happened to us. OK, so the heavens may not have been torn apart quite so dramatically when we were baptised (I suppose the nearest equivalent at All Saints and Martyrs might be the roof caving in and the rain pouring through the ceiling). However, I promise you, the same Spirit descended onto your life on your baptism day and filled you with the same love, grace and peace that Jesus received. And I also promise that the Father spoke the same words over you that he spoke over Jesus (although maybe not in a Wizard of Oz voice):
‘You are my Son/Daughter’
God is our loving heavenly Father who has made us his treasured sons and daughters. God is not a distant Father but ‘Abba’, the heavenly Father who runs to embrace his children, the Father who loves us more than we could ever imagine. These words remind us that we’re all royalty! I don’t know if you’ve ever fancied yourself as a king, queen, prince or princess (OK, so maybe I’ve been watching too many Disney films over Christmas). Well, in our baptism, God declares us sons and daughters of the King, stamped with God’s royal seal of approval for ever. These are such wonderful words – but they’re not made-up fairy tale words – they’re real and true! And if ever we’re feeling a bit down on ourselves we just need to remember, ‘I’m royalty, I’m a son or daughter of the King, a son or daughter of my heavenly Father, and he’s mine and I am His forever!’
The phrase ‘God loves you’ can become so overused that it can start to sound quite trite and sentimental. But there’s nothing trite or sentimental about God’s love for us. God loves us with a fierce passionate love, a love stronger than death, a love that ‘burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame’ (Song of Songs 8:6). God’s love for us never gives up, but constantly reaches out to us wherever we are and draws us closer to His heart. God loves us with an enduring love, a love that nothing in all creation can ever separate us from. Surely, if we could truly grasp just how fierce and wonderful God’s love is for us, it would change the way we see ourselves forever!
‘With you I am well pleased’
Many Christians go around feeling that God is displeased rather than pleased with them. But God is not stood over us with an Almighty frown, glaring upon us with a look of disapproval. Rather God is a kindly God, a kindly Father, a God whose face shines upon us and who is gracious to us. A God who is well pleased with us just for being who we are.
There’s a lovely verse in the book of Zephaniah in the Old Testament which says that God takes ‘great delight in you’ and ‘rejoice(s) over you with singing!’ (Zephaniah 3:17). The phrase ‘rejoice over you’ literally means to whoop and dance around for joy! God delights in you so much that he literally leaps up and down and does a little twirl every time he sees you! Such is his delight over his kids!
So these are wonderful words – amazing – and more importantly – true!
Looking ahead to 2021, we can’t be certain what the future holds. Yes, the vaccines are on their way (hurrah!) but we’re still in for a pretty long slog, and as I write this, the threat of another national lockdown looms large. But much as we can’t be certain how 2021 will unfold, we can be certain that the Father has brought us home as his beloved sons and daughters; certain that God’s love is all-embracing and stronger and more contagious than any virus; and certain that God is well pleased with us not because of anything we’ve done but simply on account of us being his kids.
And because all this is true – we can approach this uncertain year with great confidence and joy, and in the true and certain knowledge that these wonderful words that were first spoken over Jesus are spoken over us by our heavenly Father afresh each and every day.
Have a blessed week!
PS – If you’re reading this and you’ve never been baptised, why not give it a whirl once the restrictions are lifted again (remember grown-ups can be baptised too!) What’s the worst that could happen (apart from the ceiling caving in! J)?