Feast of the Baptism of the Lord

Feast of the Baptism of the Lord

January 12, 2020

In the words of the poet Howard Thurman:

When the song of the angels is stilled,

When the star in the sky is gone,

When the kings and princes are home,

When the shepherds are back with their flock,

The work of Christmas begins…

So how was your Christmas?  Was it all that you expected it to be?  A Hallmark-perfect, all-expectations-met were met Christmas, filled with love and peace?  Nobody got sick and everybody got along and the presents were all perfect and everyone is well-rested?  Or do you feel kind of like one of those Christmas trees you see out at the curb without a needle on it, just a trunk and some branches waiting to get hauled away?  What do you do when the expectations and reality don’t match? 

 

It’s the same questions that John the Baptist and his followers were grappling with:  They had been waiting for a Messiah forever!  Literally, from as long as their faith stories were told or anyone could remember.  But, once again and still, the Jewish people were oppressed, this time by the Romans, so they were looking for a Messiah that would kick-butt, bruise a few of those oppressors, shout a little louder than the Roman emperor.  They expected a Messiah that would be on their side, one they would call their own.  They wanted a super-hero, someone powerful and mighty.

 

But they got Jesus.  He came from up north, out of Nazareth, virtually unnoticed.  He was baptized by John with the rest of the crowd, young and as-of-yet unknown.  They could not claim as their own because they could not figure out who is “own” were.  He would hang out with sinners one day and the next day be dining with the so-called holy ones, showing no partiality to anyone.  He gathered a few not-so-impressive disciples, but certainly not an army to go against the Romans.  Jesus stood in the same murky waters of the Jordan as they did. He would make an entrance into his town of birth and city of death, not with chariots of fire, but on a donkey.  In a word: they didn’t get what they were expecting!  There were many who stood before God, much the same as we stand before God after a holiday season refought with exhaustion and flu and family squabbles and unmet expectations and say: “Well, there’s always next year.”

But for those whose ears were tuned, for those who saw with eyes of faith, for those who could see beyond their expectations, for those who had hearts that were eager for love, they knew - this one was for real.  And on that day at the Jordan River, God made it known.  Before Jesus did anything, before he gathered any disciples or healed anyone or taught anything or before he turned any water into wine…God made it known that that Jesus was his beloved Son.  God loved him.  And in loving him, God gave Jesus everything he needed to be the person God wanted him to be, to be the Messiah God needed him to be.

 

That same declaration of love bestowed upon Christ that day is bestowed upon us.  The same Christ who stood in the muddy waters of the Jordan River is the same Christ that stands in the muddy waters of our lives, and the same God declares to us:  You are my beloved daughters; you are my beloved sons.

God loves us so that we, too, can become what God wants us to be.  God loves us to that we can change what needs to be changed in our lives. God gives us the power to save whatever needs to be saved in the world.  The experience of God’s love and the acceptance of God’s love is the engine of everything we are about as sons and daughters of God.  If the mystics said it once they’ve said it a thousand ways: God does not love us when we change; God loves us so that we can change…and do…and become…what God calls us to change and do and become.  Because…

When the song of the angels is stilled,

When the star in the sky is gone,

When the kings and princes are home,

When the shepherds are back with their flock,

The work of Christmas begins:

To find the lost,

To heal the broken,

To feed the hungry,

To release the prisoner,                                                                

To rebuild the nations,                                                                 

To bring peace among people,                                                                    

To make music in the heart.*

 

* The poem “The Work of Christmas” is from Howard Thurman’s The Mood of Christmas and Other Celebrations

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