The Rev. Laura A. Csellak, Chaplain
On January 8th, many congregations celebrated the Baptism of our Lord. This festival commemorates Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River by John the Baptist. Originally the Baptism of our Lord was celebrated on January 6th, the Day of the Epiphany, along with the coming of the Magi and the wedding at Cana. Whew! Three epiphany events in Jesus’ life, all jam-packed into a single day. Over time, however, the celebration of the Jesus’ baptism came to be commemorated as a distinct feast apart from the Epiphany. Roman Catholics, Episcopalians and Lutherans now celebrate this on the first Sunday following the Epiphany.
In one congregation I served, I invited folks to submit their questions about baptism. These questions and my answers then served as the sermon on the Baptism of our Lord Sunday. One parishioner wrote in, “If I know Jesus as my Lord and Savior, do I really need to be baptized to live forever in heaven?” I replied that in Mark 16:16 we read, “The one who believes and is baptized will be saved”. Baptism and faith itself are gifts from God to us. It is God who always acts first with our response following. That’s why in many tradition we baptize babies as well as adults. Before the child can say, “I love you Jesus!” God dives into the holy water and proclaims, “You are my precious and beloved child forever
Here’s another question submitted about baptism: “Why was Jesus baptized? If he is perfect and sinless why did he ask John the Baptist to baptize him?” Good question, one that many of us have asked. Jesus’ baptism was not to cleanse him from sin, rather to initiate him into his ministry. It is significant that it was John who baptized Jesus, for John was well known as the “voice crying in the wilderness”, fulfilling Isaiah’s prophesy. By baptizing Jesus, John was declaring to all that here was the One they had been waiting for, the very Son of God.
A third question presented about baptism is this: “How can I celebrate my baptism in everyday life?” Every time you splash water on your face, turn on the shower or jump into a pool is an opportunity to remember your baptism. Martin Luther, especially in the darkest days of his life, would cry out, “I am baptized!”. It was a way to stick it to the devil, as if to say: “Take that, you Evil One. My Lord is stronger than anything you try to throw at me!” The same goes for you and me. When the devil tries to throw our sin and shortcomings at us to lead us into despair and hopelessness, we have a response: “Yes, I know I am a sinner. What of it? For I know One who suffered and made satisfaction in my behalf. His name is Jesus Christ, Son of God. Where he is, there I shall be also”.
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