Psalm 29, Genesis 1:1-5, Acts 19: 1-7, Mark 1: 4-11
So here we are still relatively at the beginning of 2021, having said goodbye with our fingers crossed to all the problems of 2020. A new year is usually a time for resolutions, for good intentions and a time when we hope for new beginnings, new opportunities and new challenges. Well, we certainly have the challenges at the moment. We have the hope of the vaccine, but until that becomes more widely available, we are still locked down and once again having to hold our worship by Zoom. Now Zoom has its advantages, but also means that not everyone in the congregation can participate. It is all a bit frustrating to say the least.
Today’s readings talk about new beginnings. The beginning of the World and the beginning of the Church. And the important place that baptism has in our faith. The transition from the old to the new life in Christ.
This follows on from the Baptism of Jesus himself in the River Jordan by John, which we can read about in all four Gospels.
Baptism signifies a new beginning and a transition. This is what Jesus’ baptism by John marked. Up until then Jesus’ life and purpose had been largely unknown. We have accounts of his birth and a few mentions of his early life, but it is only when he comes to John for baptism, for the transition from his earlier life on earth up until then into the life that God had prepared for him, that we really get to know about Jesus. After his baptism, Jesus’s life changed and he went about God’s business.
And as he submits to John’s baptism, a baptism of repentance from sin, Jesus identifies Himself with us. The sinless one identifies Himself as a sinner, as a human being as well as God. He loves us and accepts his earthly life and his role in leading our lives, forming our lives, saving our lives. He becomes one with us.
So when we look at Jesus’s baptism and the transition that baptism brings, we can reflect on the change that our own baptisms, whether as children or as an adult, brought into our lives. Jesus’ baptism was an affirmation of who he is. Our baptism is an affirmation of who we are, that we are God’s beloved children called to participate in God’s work. We have been claimed by Christ.
And having been claimed by Christ, we must remember what special people we are and how blessed to have the assurance of Christ’s love in every part of our lives. The whole World is going through a terrible time right now. Many people are afraid, feeling helpless, uncertain or even just plain lonely. And as children of God, having the assurance of being loved and cared about, we have responsibilities – responsibilities to be Ambassadors of his kingdom, which is all about caring, loving, being just and compassionate. It is our duty to care about others, to pray for the World, for the unloved, the lonely, the afraid and also our essential workers, who put their wellbeing on the line for others – from our NHS staff, to the other emergency services, to everyone who makes society work – right through, for example, to the staff at the supermarket, who we would be lost without.
We must be people of prayer. I don’t mean prayer in the sense of constantly asking things from God, but prayer in the sense of being open and receptive and aligned with God’s love and purpose, praying for the World, even more so than normal at this difficult time. The baptised life, the Christian life is one that is open to and trusts in the love and grace and spiritual power of God.
Life is different and not much fun at present, but things will get better and, while they remain miserable, we could do nothing better than devote ourselves to a bit more prayer.