BAPTISM OF THE LORD – YEAR A
9-12 year olds
At the close of the Christmas season, we leave the secret years of Jesus' childhood behind and join the grown-up Jesus in the waters of the Jordan river. The feast of Christmas that celebrates God becoming human like us comes to an end with a particular look at Jesus' baptism.
We have to ask ourselves, why does Jesus need to be baptized? John the Baptist sees a problem with this. Surely Jesus does not have sins to confess; he does not need to repent. John the Baptist does not think that Jesus needs to be baptized and would prefer instead to be baptized himself.
But Jesus says,
“Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.”
What does fulfill all righteousness mean? "Righteousness" means to be righteous, to be in right-relationship, to act always in a way that is good. We know the source of all goodness is God, so to fulfill all righteousness means to do all that is pleasing to God, to follow God's will completely. It means to be pleasing to God.
So Jesus knows that this is what he must do. Even if he is not sinful, he must be baptized by John the Baptist. John the Baptist would prefer Jesus to skip baptism, but Jesus knows that baptism is more than just washing away sins. Skipping this step would place himself above the rest of the people; it would make him self-righteous. It would put his will at the centre of all things, not God's will.
Remember, Jesus is fully human at the same time as being fully God. If he thinks he is too good for baptism, then he somehow makes himself more fully God and less fully human. Right?
So Jesus submits to the will of God. He plants himself firmly among the humans. One of us. Completely identifying with us.
So what happens when he allows John to plunge him under the waters of the river Jordan? Like a clean white sock thrown in the wash with muddy socks, he takes all our sinfulness upon himself. In placing himself firmly in our filthy water, he accepts our fate. Our lives that end in death, our sinfulness that separates us from God--he takes that as his own. Under the waters of the Jordan, he accepts his mission from God. And it will lead to the cross.
But what happens as he stands up again, gasping for breath, the water running off his body, his face turned upward to the sky?
suddenly the heavens were opened to him
To him there is the promise of eternal life. After the cross, the Resurrection. Home.
This is my Son, the Beloved,
But the Beloved has chosen to place himself firmly among humans, accepting our destiny. He is with us! He invites us into relationship; our lives may be joined to his! And so we are gathered up into his destiny. Eternal life is promised to us.
And so, in our baptism, we accept our mission from God. We know that we have been chosen. And we become adopted children of God. We are God's daughters and sons, too. We are also beloved by God.
And at our baptism God says to all, "This is my beloved child,
with whom I am well pleased."