This week, without hardly being aware of it, we have moved from the Season of Christmas into the Season of Epiphany.  January 6th , the twelfth day after Christmas is the day that we celebrate the discovery of Jesus by the Magi.  Today is the Sunday in the church year that we traditionally celebrate the baptism of Christ, the event that signaled the official start of Jesus’s ministry

I always felt this day was a bit of a jolt, all of a sudden coming face to face with adult Jesus…after all, the last few weeks we have been all wrapped up in the BABY Jesus…sweet little child born to Mary and Joseph, heralded by angels and visited by lowly shepherds and exotic magi.  We have been basking in the light of the star that leads us all to that humble manger in Bethlehem. 

This week is a rather abrupt reminder that as wonderful, and uplifting and magnificent as that manger is, as much as we would like to stay and experience the awe and the “AW” of Baby Jesus, it is now time to step away from the manger and the trees and the wreaths and the stockings and the presents of Christmas time and move back into the real world.  And what better place to do that than in the mud on the banks of the Jordan River?

Matthew 3: 13-17

13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. 14 John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. 16 And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved,[a] with whom I am well pleased.”

May God bless to our understanding the words that we hear today

 Will you pray with me please?  May the Words of my mouth and the meditation of all of our hearts and minds be acceptable in your sight O Lord. Our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen

I have been the pastor for just under 10 years and I continue to LOVE celebrating the sacraments.  In the protestant church that is communion and baptism.  I think I may have mentioned once or twice how much I love sharing communion with you but in case you haven’t noticed I also love baptisms.  I LOVE baptisms, well, what I love is the WATER of baptism. I sometimes joke that when we celebrate a baptism when I am around that we need to set up a no splash zone because I use water, lots and lots of water and I don’t often confine myself to the small space of the font or the baby or the person being baptized. I will liberally sprinkle those around me, letting us all rejoice in the cooling waters. 

I get absolutely giddy about baptism and honestly, I have a hard time figuring out why more people aren’t giddy about it too.  Everyone seems to be scared of the water, few dare to come forward when invited.  Many church’s, stuff their baptismal fonts in a corner somewhere and only pull them out when needed. You may have noticed that one of the first things that I did when I came here was to open our font so that every week we have that blessed reminder of our baptism.  It makes me sad that now day’s baptism seems to be a box that is checked off by new parents as a tradition instead of an important sacred event.

I was baptized as a baby and have absolutely no recollection of the event except I am told that the pastor who baptized me eventually left the Presbyterian church and joined the UCC…maybe an early harbinger of my life to come…I was not aware of my baptism but that does not stop me from remembering my baptism and feeling complete and utter joy in the fact that it took place and some of the reasons I feel that way can be found by looking at what is happening today in Matthews’s account of Jesus Baptism.

Our text today came from two sources Isaiah and Matthew and there is a reason that the scripture of Isaiah was paired with the scripture from Matthew.  The beautiful words of Isaiah to the people of Israel are the suggestion of what is to come in Jesus Christ.  The words of the prophet are reminding us once again that our God is faithful, our God remembers the promises that were made to us and that how we live in our world matters to God.  It matters so much that God promises to send One who will fix the mess that we made.  Everything that we need, healing, grace, justice will be made known to us, the very Spirit of God is going to be in this Servant that God will send and whom God will love and delight in.

Isaiah’s words promise a better day and Matthew is showing us in this private moment of water and mud and cracking heavens and voices and doves that that day has come and God’s beloved is here in this world and the work of the world can begin.

When Jesus comes up to his cousin John on the banks of the Jordan and asks to be baptized he is announcing himself as the One promised to us by Isaiah.  I like the way that F. Dean Lueking puts it when he writes that Jesus announces himself as the fulfiller of the grace which gives sinners who have no standing before God a place to stand in a new relationship with God. He Himself is that place.”

THAT is why I love baptisms....it is a reminder every time we celebrate that sacrament that all God’s children have a place to stand in a new relationship with God. When we remember our baptism, we are being reminded that we are in constant relationship with God. God is always there ready to reveal Godself to us in our struggles and in our despair and in our joy and in our gladness. 

That should be the bottom line for us, what we hold onto…our baptism is what helps us to survive, to rise above the difficult times in our lives.  Baptism is our reminder that we matter to God and God names us Beloved… but that is not the end of it.

What is so powerful about our baptism is the struggles it gets us through. What is so powerful about our baptism is the unbridled joy it can bring to our lives. What make our baptism so powerful is that moment when we figure out how and that moment when we share it.   It is an Epiphany, begun in a moment with a single splash of water, and made real over the years in other moments when we share our revelation of God with others and God continues to be revealed to us.

The Baptism of Christ signaled the start of Jesus’s ministry. Today it is the signal for us to begin our ministry as well.  Epiphany is a time of discovery. It is a time that is set aside for us in the year to discovery once again our relationship with God and with God’s son.  Over the next six weeks we will have the opportunity to explore our relationship with God, as individuals and as a community of Faith.  We will ponder what it means when Jesus not only invites us to Come and See but what it means to follow him as well.