“But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.” (Isaiah 43)
“And when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” (Luke 3)
Today (January 6) The church season of Epiphany begins. The word means “Revealing”. We begin to understand through the ministry of Jesus some of what it means that the God of all things is walking among us, on the earth as a human being. That ministry begins with Jesus’ baptism, which always we remember and reflect on the first Sunday after Epiphany. No act could be more rooted in incarnation, this real sense that God is most certainly with us! There is no more crucial aspect of our faith in these desperate days than this, that we trust and experience that in Jesus God comes to identify with us in every way God can.
The late author Rachel Held Evans gives us these wonderful words: “We all long for someone to tell us who we are. “The great struggle of the Christian life is to take God’s name for us, to believe we are beloved and to believe that is enough…baptism reminds us that there’s no ladder to holiness to climb, no self-improvement plan to follow. It’s just death and resurrection, over and over again, day after day, as God reaches down into our deepest graves and with the same power that raised Jesus from the dead wrests us from our pride, our apathy, our fear, our prejudice, our anger, our hurt, and our despair…In the ritual of our baptism, our ancestors acted out the bizarre truth of the Christian identity: We are people who stand totally exposed before evil and death and declare them powerless against love.” (Searching for Sunday, pp..18-22).
Jesus stands in line with sinners and is baptized with them, an inaugural moment of profound identification with the wounds and sorrows of humanity. In this Holy moment Holy Spirit comes along with a word from heaven to bless him: “You are my Son, the beloved. With you I am well pleased.” And the wonder of our faith is that in Jesus’ death and resurrection we are forever God’s beloved sons and daughters too.
So remember your baptism, and give thanks for the One God sent to journey into all your sins and sorrows, who is with you even as you read this. It is this Christ Jesus who will in due time, in short order, lay down his life to set you free from sin and death. What amazing, wonderful and transformative good news!