2020-01-10 The Baptism of our Lord
Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen!
The season of Epiphany, the season of light, has come! The Christmas light of the world has illuminated the darkness of our world and now continues to do so. Isaiah the prophet wrote “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and His glory will be seen upon you. And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.” It was a great Christmas prophecy summing up the whole problem that humanity faces: darkness. A thick spiritual darkness covers and clouds all people, making us stumble and trip and fall. We know this condition as sin and death, both of which continue to mar our fallen world. We see and feel the effects of it daily. Everyone wearing masks - visibly reminding us we need be scared and fearful of other people who might make us sick! This further entrenches humanity in the darkness of fear and faithlessness!
This darkness that covers our world is thick and persistent. It constantly strives to snuff out the light of Christ and the hope you have in Him. It is a reminder that you always have to be on your guard to what you are being told. Think critically. Independent research. Question everything. Never forget our Lord’s words: “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (MT 10:16). But even though our world is cloaked in darkness, our Lord’s promise to us is sure. It is light and life in Jesus Christ our Lord. “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.”
The truth of God’s Word really is a lamp for our feet and a light to our path. This is where we go for that rock solid assurance we need in life that despite the darkness, despite the bias of the world, Christ has come. He was born to set us free from the darkness of sin and death. His light enlightens our dark world and gives us joy that does not fade. His amazing grace is poured out for us on His cross and comes to each of us through our Baptism.
And speaking of Baptism, that’s what day it is today. The Baptism of Jesus our Lord. One of the first celebrations of the Epiphany season of light is the revealing of our Lord in the Jordan river. The sinless Lamb of God goes to be baptized by cousin John. “I need to be baptized by you!” cousin John protests to Jesus. But Jesus assures Him that to fulfill all righteousness, Jesus will be baptized by John. The spotless one freely goes into the river to become spotted. He equates Himself to common everyday sinners like us. Of course, His Baptism isn’t to wash away His sins. He has none. Instead, we need to see our Lord’s Baptism like a Divine Sham-Wow towel, absorbing the sin of the world, sucking up death and taking it all away. “And when He came up out of the water, immediately He saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on Him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased” (MK 1:10-11).
In our Lord’s Baptism, we also have the Epiphany blessing. The Holy Trinity is revealed. God the Son wades in the waters of the Jordan river. God the Holy Spirit descends in the form of a dove. God the Father speaks as the heavens are opened. And truly, the heavens have been opened for us. The gift of sins forgiven and eternal life is now ours through our Baptism. When the water and the word wash us, we are connected to our Lord. We die with Him on His cross. We rise with Him in His resurrection. Heaven is opened for us and becomes our home. This promises is for you and your children. Because it rests not on us or our works but only on the work of the Lamb of God, we can always take comfort in our Baptism. It is God’s promise to us that He is always Emmanuel - with us, everyday of our lives.
Holy Baptism becomes our life and our light in Christ our Lord. Even though the world around us is nothing but darkness all the time, the Gospel shines like a beacon for all to see. We ought not to continue to walk and stumble in the darkness. Instead, we should seek the light of God’s truth. We should read God’s Word, immersing ourselves in the heavenly light that proceeds from the mouth of God. For the more we know the light, the more the darkness will flee away.
“Arise, shine” Isaiah says. Epiphany continues to reveal Christ’s grace for us. And likewise, we too should become people of the light. Our good works that God has provided for us to do should be abundant. In fact, St. Paul tells us that the consequence of our Baptism is this: “we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph 2:10). We should walk in the good works that God has prepared for us. Why? Why be a do-gooder? Because every good thing done in faith in Christ helps spread light into this dark world. It helps spread the truth of our Lord’s amazing grace and love for His fallen creation.
Many moons ago, the Seminary had a program called “Dreams Take Flight”. It was a neat opportunity for the would-be-pastors to fly to a Parish for an immersive educational experience. It was basically a field-trip for Master’s students! Some people went to places like Macnutt, SK or Vegreville, AB. But some of us fortunate ones got to go to Vancouver Island in the middle of winter! I got to go to Parksville, BC. It was gorgeous! One of the members of the church had just bought and moved in to an ocean front property. As part of the house warming, the new owners had their Pastor (and the tag-along seminarian) come and do a House Blessing. We went to each of the rooms of the house, blessing them with the Word of God and with prayer. Talk about a way to house-warm up a place with the light and life of Christ! Although we, like John the Baptist, are unworthy to untie our Lord’s sandal straps and have Him come under our roofs, He still blesses us and wants to be with us.
This house blessing experience set me on the course of doing yearly House Blessings during the season of Epiphany. It’s a wonderful practice to have our homes blessed with the Word of God and with prayer. Each new year, we invite God to literally come home with us and have His enduring presence be with us all year through. This year may be a bit of a gongshow with the corona restrictions, but we will play it by ear. If you would like your home blessed, let me know. We have the technology! It recalls the wise men too who came to find Jesus. This is a neat detail you probably never caught before. But the Magi didn’t come to the manger alongside the Shepherds. It’s in every Nativity scene ever, but if we look carefully at Matthew’s Gospel we notice this: “When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh” (MT 2:10-13). “Going into the house.” They came to the house where Jesus was, not to the manger. House Blessings recall this journey to the home.
Epiphany has come once again. The great blessings of our Lord at this time of year are abundant once again. Though the world is dark and still full of troubles, the Word of Christ is our light and our life. Be wise to the ways of the light. Spread it around as much as you can - from simply calling a friend who is feeling down to having your home blessed, through these often simple acts the light shines in the darkness. Remember your Baptism. Remember who our Lord has called you to be. For the heavens have been opened to you. The light illuminates the darkness. Arise, shine, for your light has come. Amen!