The time has come for us to move beyond the manger, for white and gold to give way to green. Today we come to the end of the Church’s celebration of Christmas with the feast of the Baptism of the Lord and we prepare to enter into the liturgical season of Ordinary Time. This feast jumps us about thirty years forward in the Lord’s earthly life and is understood as the event that inaugurates his public ministry. The Scriptures that the Church has chosen for this feast bring us full circle from where our pre-Christmas journey began in Advent, to Christmas Day, and now to the end of this holy season.
Some six weeks ago we began our Advent journey and over the course of that journey we heard those familiar words of the Prophet Isaiah that are proclaimed to us again this Sunday. We might say that in today’s feast we are given a recap of what has already been revealed and proclaimed: that God has heard the cry of his people and has responded to that cry in the coming of Christ his son. What was already made known to Mary & Joseph, the Shepherds, Simeon & Anna, and the Magi is made known to a wider audience by the Spirit at the Jordan River when the voice of the Father proclaims of Jesus “This is my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
Today’s feast is a continuation of last week’s celebration of the Epiphany because Christ is once again made known for who is; his identity is not a secret as it is revealed by the Father and his purpose is revealed in his dialogue with John. As with the Magi so now at the Jordan, God continues to make known through Jesus that his life and love are open to all people who will receive him and all who receive him belong to him.
Now that we have celebrated the coming of Jesus at the beginning of the Church year, we are now prepared for the unfolding of another great mystery; the mystery that is life in Christ and what that means for us as his disciples as the events of his passion, death, resurrection, and overall ministry are recounted for us over the rest of the Church year. This mystery of life in Christ is what we are called to contemplate and celebrate each day and in every season. We have been called and chosen to be children of God, not because of any merit of ours, but because of God’s great love for us; because of this we should in turn see our lives as something extraordinary.
In Matthew’s Gospel for today, Jesus tells John that he must be baptized by him to “fulfill all righteousness.” Greater than the light of the star that led the Magi, it is Jesus himself in this act that shows us the way. The Lord goes before us always, the light that shines in the darkness. May we cooperate with the grace given us to never fear or waver in following him.
Father Christopher House is the Rector of the Cathedral and serves in various leadership roles within the diocesan curia, namely Chancellor and Vicar Judicial.