Baptism of the Lord B Mk 1: 7-11
Throughout the world this Sunday, the universal church celebrates the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. This feast marks the conclusion of the Season of Christmas, which also explains, in case you were wondering, why our Christmas decorations are still up this weekend.
The Christmas season is the shortest season of the church calendar, with almost all of the celebrations focused on the birth of Jesus and His first few weeks after – but today we fast forward 30 years when He is baptized in the Jordan River by John the Baptist. So, why does the Church make this event the end of the Christmas season? How does this fit in?
The coming of Christ into this world, which we call the Incarnation, was a blessed event. It gave us the ultimate assurance that God is truly with us. But that story did not happen in an instant – rather, it was a slow process. It wasn’t as though Jesus was born and before anyone knew it, He was out there healing and teaching and preaching. No. A lot of things had to happen beforehand, a lot of years had to pass.
We know from the gospels that after His birth Jesus was presented in the Temple in Jerusalem. Under the care of His mother and stepfather, the family had to flee to Egypt for a few years to escape the clutches of the evil King Herod. The Holy Family were then able to return to Israel and they settled in Nazareth. At the age of ten He and His family went to Jerusalem for a celebration and there He was separated from His parents until He was found in the Temple in Jerusalem. Finally, when He is 30, He is baptized – and now He is, so to speak, formally presented to the world by God the Father. It’s kind of like the quinceanera celebration in Mexico for 15 year old girls, or the “debut” celebration for girls from the Philippines who turn 18.
But Jesus’ baptism wasn’t just His formal introduction to the world, it was also the beginning of His getting involved in the world. Up until then Jesus had led a quiet life, growing up under the care of His mother, and learning the carpentry trade from His stepfather. He worked, He played, He hung out with His friends – it must have been a lovely, quiet, uncomplicated life. But His life changed dramatically with His baptism. Until that moment, Jesus was just some guy from Nazareth, hardly anyone knew anything about Him. But now the game was up. As soon as He climbed out of the Jordan River, God the Father got so excited, He shouted through all the heavens: “You see Him? That’s my boy! Isn’t He great? Just watch and see what my Son is going to do!”
With His cover blown by the Father, Jesus realizes that it was time to get to work. And that is exactly what He does. He preaches, teaches, heals, and recruits followers – for 3 years. His work culminates with His saving Passion, death and resurrection. All that happened once he was baptized.
You and I were baptized too. And when we were baptized, as our lit baptism candle was held in front of us by our godparents, we were told by the priest or Deacon who baptized us that we were called to be a child of the light. How do you be a child of the light? By being someone who gets very involved in life – your own life, and the life of all the other people God places in your life. What does the child of light do? The child of light lives out their faith and shares their faith, day after day. God doesn’t need any more baptized bystanders and spectators. Sadly, He’s got plenty of those already.
Before the pandemic sports arenas and stadiums would be filled with spectators. While those spectators are there to cheer on their team, in the end, what do they really do? They watch. No, what He needs are players. He needs us to us be players who are children of the light – people who love the faith, live the faith and share the faith.
Have you been a child of light? If yes, thank you. Keep doing so. If the answer is not really, well, there still is time to get with the programme.
Again, God doesn’t need any more baptized spectators. What God needs is for you and me to be children of the light.