Baptism of the Lord (Ages 6-9): Sitting Down With People
We are coming to the end of the Christmas season, but we are still celebrating! Most people think Christmas ends on December 26th, or maybe the season lasts for 12 days, but the Church celebrates God becoming human like us for 3 Sundays. The Baptism of the Lord is the last of the three Sundays of the feast of Christmas. After hearing about Jesus as a baby for two Sundays, now we hear about Jesus as a grown man. He comes to be baptized in the river Jordan by his cousin, John the Baptist.
John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. In his preaching he proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
We have heard this part before. Back on the 2nd Sunday of Advent, we heard about John the Baptist standing in the river, dunking people who want to be forgiven for their sins. We heard him proclaim that Jesus is more powerful than he is; we heard him proclaim that Jesus will baptize with the Holy Spirit. What should we expect, then? Should we not expect that Jesus will take over from John and begin baptizing? I imagine that's what the people expect.
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.
Hang on. John has proclaimed that Jesus will baptize, but now instead we hear John baptizing Jesus. How can this be? Is John wrong? We do not expect someone more powerful than John to need baptism.
John has said that his baptism is for repentance and forgiveness of sins. Does Jesus need to repent?? Has Jesus sinned?
And yet Jesus does not baptize, but gets baptized himself. God has confused all our expectations.
Why does Jesus get baptized?
Imagine carrying a glass bottle of water.
Imagine dropping that glass bottle onto a hard stone floor. The bottle smashes into a million pieces. Water splashes everywhere and sharp shards of glass cover the floor. There is no way to pick all the pieces up . There is no way to get all the water back. There is no way to fix the bottle. There is no hope.
Imagine then if someone--someone perfect, someone who never smashes bottles on stone floors--stands with hands on hips saying, "You have made a horrendous mistake. You need to clean this mess up." We might expect that. We might deserve that. But would that help at all?
But imagine if that same someone, the One who never smashes bottles, sits down with us among the shards of glass and says, "This is an awful mess. I know how you feel and I'll help you clean it up. I'll even fix the bottle, and give you new water." Well, that would be unexpected!
I wonder if Jesus steps into the river to be baptized with water because...he wants to sit down with people who have made an awful mess with their sins.
Now there is hope.
And what happens when Jesus is baptized by John with the water of the Jordan?
And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
The heavens are torn apart. Nothing separates God's love from people sitting in the mess of their sins. The Holy Spirit comes down on Jesus where he sits down with people. By being baptized like everyone else, Jesus tears open the heavens, opening up the Holy Spirit to people on earth. By his baptism, we--the people on earth--can also be baptized like John proclaims, not with water but with the Holy Spirit.
And that voice, the one that speaks directly to Jesus at his baptism, speaks to each of us at our baptism,