Isaiah 40: 1-5, 9-11; Luke 3: 15-16, 21-22
Several months ago Disney released a movie entitled The Odd Life of Timothy Green. It’s a story about a couple, the Greens’, who at the beginning of the story are given the news that they cannot have children of their own. Of course it is devastating for them to receive such news. They begin this process of grieving of what they believed this child would be…their gifts, their capabilities, their expectations of what could have been. They laugh and cry and then box it up and bury in the ground. As the story proceeds, a child grows out of the earth and in turn teaches this couple who they really are and the love that they are capable of. The child we have celebrated these past weeks continues to do the same as the baptized adult today, sent on this mission as the Son of God. It is the Baptism of the Lord.
We gather often around this baptismal font and witness many children baptized throughout the year. Yes, we know it as the sacrament that washes away original sin, but it is also much more. It is an invitation into this great mystery of our faith of life and death. In order for us, too, to begin to learn our true identity and the love that we are capable of, many things often must die. Out of that death comes life. That is the invitation offered in this sacrament.
Isaiah and great prophets understood this. They understood that the old order was going to need to die and to be let go of. Jerusalem is thanked for its service as a great military leader, but today is told that a new direction is being formed. This old way of life was going to need to die in order for them to understand who they really are. God nows calls them to comfort, to shepherd, to lead, to feed the flock, to carry and care for. The old order comes to an end today and the new way of life takes shape. Life and death…it is the Baptism of the Lord.
The Gospel writers knew this as well. John the Baptist knew this. Maybe more than any other that knew it was Luke, who, in the passage missing from the gospel today, literally writes John out of the story before Jesus is even baptized in the Jordan! Many questioned whether John was the one that would bring about the new world order, but John knew otherwise. Despite his great ability to speak and lead, he is humbled to step aside knowing that he was not the one, that one greater was taking stage in the Jordan, another act of great humility, this God that invites all into this mystery of life and death.
As we draw this Christmas season to a close this week, we remember our own baptism. No, most of us cannot remember participating in this sacrament because we are baptized as children. But we are never too old to remember this mystery that we continue to participate in today. There are things in our lives that must die. There are things we need to let go of in order to hear our true identity. As Jesus is named today in the gospel, so are we, the sons and daughters of God. If we can allow these things to die in our lives and stop squashing that voice within, we too will come to the true realization of who we are, these sons and daughters of God, and more importantly, what we too are capable of…the great capacity to love and be loved.