The beginning of the preparation for Christmas began with John the Baptist proclaiming repent and make way for the Lord. Today Jesus is baptized by that fiery preacher. This same baptizer declarers that he must decrease so that Jesus might increase. John realizes that he had played his role in preparing for the Lord, and in his statement about how he must decrease so Jesus might increase is his introduction on how one begins their life in Christ.It is in baptism that we die to ourselves and are reborn in Christ. I think this becomes vividly apparent when one thinks of John baptizing in the Jordan. When submerged in the water the person must hold their breath. Man can not live for long under water. As we rise from the water our first action is that gasp for air so necessary for life. One can hold their breath only for so long. How different is that first breath from the first breath of an infant just born? In dying to one self the Christian rises devoted to Christ. This feast of the baptism of the Lord is precisely the time to renew those baptismal vows, to remember what our own baptism asks of us. This feast begins Jesus’s public ministry where he asks us to follow him, and that is the journey we begin with our own baptism.
The story of the baptism of Jesus is important too. It tells that Jesus did not need to be baptized by John because he had no sin. His baptism was not for his sins, but for ours. Jesus was not cleansed by those waters, but instead sanctified those waters for mankind. It is our sins that he is taking away. Might this be a good time to let our sins go, to grant ourselves the forgiveness He has given us? In that story it also is important to notice what happens during the baptism of the Lord. The first sign that happens is that the clouds part, and to rephrase that is to say that heaven opened up. That is an important event as it signifies that God has again entered into our lives. In ancient times people very much viewed the heavens as being the dominion of God separated by the firmament, and those clouds parting is the firmament of heaven opening up. That is something those ancients had not seen in a long time, and the reporting of it in the gospels is to signify a momentous event.That’s something worth remembering.
The other event that happens at Jesus baptism is that they hear the voice of God.” This is my beloved son with whom I am well pleased.” Again, those ancients had not heard the word of God for a long time, and that is something they had prayed for years to hear. Their God is again speaking to them. Jesus is the word made flesh, and it is that word that nourishes us as we journey with Christ as we rise from those waters. That word is the good news recorded by those gospel writers as they journeyed with Christ. Jesus public ministry begins with his baptism in the Jordan by John. This Christmas season ends with this baptism, and marks the beginning of the liturgical Ordinary Time. It seems to me that Ordinary Time is where we live as we again walk with Christ. With words spoken comes the reminder to listen for that voice while on that walk.