Sunday, January 12, 2014

the baptism of our Lord: an eagerness to tell the good news

May my words be in the Name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: + Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.

Today is the 1st Sunday after the Epiphany; it is also the the Sunday when we celebrate the Baptism of our Lord; because of which, later in this liturgy we will be renewing our own baptismal vows. It might seem like an odd way to manage our liturgical calender … last week our Lord was an infant in the manger being visited by the wise men bearing gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh … and today he is suddenly fully grown into manhood, being baptised, and about to begin his public ministry …

But perhaps it is not too odd a choice … after all, in the Gospels the story is told just like that in Matthew and Luke … they both spring from the infancy narratives to his baptism, except for Luke's brief aside for the Finding in the Temple when our Lord was 12 years old … so in that sense, our calendar and the choice of readings that go along with it only serves to mirror the story of Christ as we have it in Sacred Scripture …

Why, we might wonder though, do Matthew and Luke do that, leaving this long empty gap of years in the life-history of our Lord? They surely could have included a few more … incidents from the life of the young Jesus would have been very charming as well as illuminating … and given how fond most people are of the passage where Christ as a boy remains in the temple, talking with the learned men there, while his anxious parents search for him, further such stories would surely have proved very popular …

So why leave them out? Why not include more? Why the rush to take us from infancy to adulthood? At this point it is as well to remember that scant though the space that Matthew and Luke allot to our Lord's early life, it is more by far than either Mark or John do … they give us not a word about Jesus of the time before his public life … in their Gospels he appears fully-formed as a grown man on the banks of the Jordan, in the company of the throngs of people who have come to his cousin John for baptism … and if Matthew and Luke seem in a hurry to get to the story of the adult Jesus, they are positively sedate in comparison to their fellow evangelists John and Mark. In fact, they all seem to be in a rush to get to good news of Jesus Christ, his mission, his preaching & teaching, his acts of power that gave witness to his authority, the redeeming action of his death on the cross, and the wondrous assurance we have of eternal life through his resurrection.

And our Church Calendar reflects that eagerness. It's a little bit like the Church is saying to us – 'right, the Christmas break is over; time to get back to work.' And what work is that, you might ask? Well, when the young Jesus was found by Mary and Joseph in the Temple, his response to them was 'did you not know I must be about my Father's business.' That is the work that we must be about. The feast of the Epiphany is the last of the 12 days of Christmas … that day is also called the revelation of the Christ to the Gentiles … the day when we are reminded that Christ came not only for a small group, but for all mankind … and it reminds us, I think, as we get back to work after our Christmas break, as we continue with our task of going about our Father's business, that we must not be too inward looking … the Christ-child came for all mankind … the evangelists were eager to get to the part of his story where they could tell of the Good News he brought to all people … so must we in our part of the work that God has blessed us with be eager to share that Good News with others … whether they be those who have never heard that good news, or those who have but have fallen away …


Soon we will renew our own baptismal vows; and as baptism is a time of new beginnings, what better time than as we do so to dedicate ourselves to begin anew the work we must do, the Lord's work, of bringing his good news to all people and baptising them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit? I pray it is a work that all of us and all of God's Church will join in with the same eagerness that the evangelists had to share that good news with us in the writing of their Gospels. Amen.

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