Wednesday, January 6, 2016

The Baptism of the Lord

What better way to bring Christmas to a close than with the celebration of the moment where Jesus was consecrated to his ministry… the celebration of the Baptism of the Lord.  Whereas Advent is a season of expectation and preparation, Christmas is the season where prophecy and expectation are fulfilled… the Christ we have been waiting for is here!

Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11
Psalm 104:1b-2, 3-4, 24-25, 27-28, 29-30
Titus 2:11-14; 3:4-7
Luke 3:15-16, 21-22

Our first reading, from Second Isaiah, is a prophecy of hope for the people of Israel held captive in Exile in Babylon.  To our Christian hears, however, it also sounds a lot like John the Baptist preaching the coming of the Lord!  In both its Hebrew and Christian perspective, it’s a message of hope…a prophecy of fulfillment.  Just as in the time of the Exodus, the Lord has heard the cry of his people and promises to set things right.  This is a momentous occasion, as heard by the exuberant language of the text.  The Lord will deliver us!  Our Psalm asks as both a confirmation of the Lord’s greatness and a prayer of thanksgiving.

Our second reading comes from Paul’s letter to Titus.  Titus, like Timothy, was an acolyte of Paul’s doing his best to form the large growing Christian community on the Mediterranean island of Crete.  This is a monumental task, so Paul is providing encouragement and guidance through the example of Jesus.  Paul says, “He saved us through the bath of rebirth…” Baptism, so that “we might be justified by his grace.”  Baptism is a new beginning, a new hope.

This is the new hope represented in our Gospel.  As this is the year we focus on the Gospel of Luke, we hear his version of the Baptism of Jesus by John.  John announces the coming of the Christ, and then we experience God’s affirmation of Jesus.  This is not only a moment of revelation for those who witnessed it, but it marks a turning point in Jesus’ life… the moment he accepts his mission and begins his ministry.  God’s voice not only was an affirmation to the people, but no doubt a comfort to Jesus as he takes on the task for which he was born.

Final Thoughts:
Free will.  Jesus was born to fulfill a great mission… the son of man that would reconcile the people back to God.  No small task.  Yet with such great expectations since before his birth, we sometimes forget that Jesus had a choice.  This is why our celebration of the Baptism of the Lord is so important.  For it is this moment that sets Jesus on the path that, while ultimately leading to his own death, leads us to salvation.

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