Baptism of the Lord (Ages 9-12): Soaking Up the Love
Updated: Jan 9, 2022
(Begin by reading the Gospel. Sometimes it is good to have someone read it to you. The Word is meant to be heard.)
At the close of the Christmas season, we leave the secret years of Jesus' childhood behind and join the grown-up Jesus at the waters of the Jordan river for his baptism. For most of us, though, our secret years of childhood include our baptism. Most of us cannot remember what happened because we were infants when the waters of Baptism were poured over our head. We wonder if we can learn anything about our own Baptism by considering Jesus'. Is there any connection?
The word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
We have heard this part before, back on the 2nd Sunday of Advent. John the Baptist's whole mission in life seems to be to prepare people for the coming of Jesus. He never wavers from this. When people turn their attention to him instead of onto God, he redirects them:
As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah,
John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming. I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
When we think of the Holy Spirit and fire, many of us recall the feast of Pentecost when tongues as of fire rest on the apostles and Mary and,
All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:4a)
It is not surprising that we make this connection as St. Luke writes both this account of Jesus' baptism and the account of Pentecost in the Acts of the Apostles. Surely, he makes the connection, too.
Now when all the people were baptized and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying
St. Luke is very interested in Jesus' prayer life. Several times throughout his Gospel he mentions that Jesus prays. We will have to be on the alert in this year of the Gospel of Luke to see what we can learn about Jesus' prayer life, too.
How does Jesus pray? What does he say? This is something we are not told. We are not close enough to hear. Perhaps Jesus feels changed by the waters of baptism and praises God in wonder. Perhaps he feels no different at all and mumbles aloud to God, now what? Does he ask for strength to follow God's will? Does he thank God for this way to offer his life? Perhaps Jesus says nothing at all, but simply soaks up God’s love, and loves God back.
While Jesus prays,
the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove.
The Holy Spirit is mentioned again! St. Luke is also very interested in the Holy Spirit of God. The first time we hear about the Holy Spirit in St. Luke's Gospel is at the Annunciation, when the angel Gabriel tells Mary how Jesus will begin life inside of her.
‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God.’ (Luke 1:35)
The Holy Spirit is already with Jesus in some way since before he is born. But at the moment of his baptism, the Holy Spirit comes to Jesus in a most particular way. Now the Holy Spirit appears, not like tongues of flame or a mighty wind, but in "bodily form like a dove." It is clear that St. Luke is trying to give us an image of what this experience is like.
In holy scripture, the first time we hear of a dove is in the account of Noah and the Flood. Noah sends out a dove from the ark, who brings back in her beak a leaf that she plucked from a tree. This is a sign to Noah that the flood waters are going down, that the time of cleansing is over. The dove is a sign that there is new life, new growth. A new Creation is beginning. Perhaps, at Jesus’ baptism, as Jesus prays, the Holy Spirit comes down creating Jesus anew.
And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
A voice from heaven that the crowd does not seem to hear.
A voice that speaks directly to Jesus' heart.
A voice that speaks love and belonging, fulfilling the words of the angel Gabriel. He is called the Son of God.
At Jesus's baptism it is as if time freezes. We hear the Father loving Jesus. We see the Holy Spirit creating him anew. And all the while, the Son says nothing; he just soaks it all up, loving God back: God—the Trinity—a community of Loving.
When we are baptized, water is poured over our head. The priest or deacon speaks, but whose voice do we hear speaking directly to our heart? As the water is poured over our head, our name is the first word spoken with love and belonging. We are created anew. We are called child of God.
The priest or deacon continues pouring an abundance of water, baptizing us in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. The community of Loving opens to include us.
Most of us cannot remember this very personal moment. Most of us were babies when we were baptized. This moment of loving poured out on us is lost to memory. What did we do? Were we too little to respond? Or maybe, like Jesus, we simply soaked it all up, loving God back.
Lost to memory, but not impossible to experience again and again. As St. Luke shows us, this moment happens when Jesus prays. When he prays, he experiences most deeply the Love of God. So can we.