Baptism of Christ - You are my beloved

Rev'd Heather
Sunday, January 12, 2020 - 9:30am

The celebration of the baptism of Christ falls within the season of Epiphany – epiphany meaning a moment of revelation or manifestation i.e. a moment when God appears. Last week we heard of the revelation of Christ to the Magi, to the gentiles, and today in our Gospel reading we heard of the revelation of God at Jesus’ baptism, that moment, when the heavens opened and the spirit of God descended as a dove and we hear those wonderful words ‘This is my beloved Son.’ 

And I’d like us to reflect on those words this morning, in a culture where we are so often encouraged to improve – to be more, to do more – and the New Year can be such a prime example of this. On the one hand it can be positive, it provides an opportunity to think about change and improvement as we often set new years resolutions. And these resolutions can be good. Mine – to take up the running programme couch to 5k – is a healthy, life giving thing to do, yet currently flagging – I plan to get back into this week. But, then as with many attempts at self-improvement comes the negative – the guilt, that sense that once again we set ourselves up for something that we failed to do. And by the third Monday of January – that’s a week on Monday this year – we’ll hit blue January – said to be the most depressing day of the year. 

In contrast to this narrative of self-improvement is God’s appearing in the form of a dove at Jesus’ baptism. God affirms Jesus just as he is: ‘This is my beloved Son, with who I am well pleased.’ God doesn’t say ‘This is my beloved Son, who still has more to offer.’ Or ‘This is my beloved Son, who will become greater.’ No God simply says: ‘This is my beloved Son, with who I am well pleased.’ What wonderful words of affirmation, what wonderful words of acceptance of Jesus as He is, at that moment in time.

When preaching at baptisms I often remind families that we come to baptism at God’s invitation, not because of anything we have done, or anything we have, or anything we achieved, but because of God’s grace, because God loves us. God loves all that God has created and God desires to be in relationship with each and every one of us, and so God freely pours out love upon us, in the hope that we will respond. As we hear in our reading from Acts this morning, that grace that love is available for everyone. God does not have any favourites, but accepts those who come to him. 

And it’s that love and grace from God that we celebrate today as we celebrate both the Baptism of Christ and our own baptisms, as we hear those words spoken by God to each of us: ‘This is my beloved Son.’ ‘This is my beloved daughter.’ They are words spoken to each of us – to the person to your left, to the person to your right, and to you. They’re really important words, they’re the words that root and ground our relationship with God, they’re the words that root and ground our faith.

It is because God accepts us for who we are and loves us that we are then sent out from our baptism, and from church each Sunday to live the Christian life – to follow in the ways of Christ. It is because love is rooting us that we can seek to respond, to love God and our neighbour. 

It’s not always an easy message to hear. There may be times when our failings feel like they are adding up and there are more ways in which we are unlovable than lovable. There may be times when we feel as though we have drifted away from God and are unsure about how to reconnect. Moreover, the Christian tradition has long focused upon our unworthiness; but we are only unworthy before God in the sense that our love can never match Gods. The love, the grace that God pours out upon us is abundant, overflowing, and we can never return it to the same extent. But that does not stop God loving us, and always being there for us, whenever we come to God, be that in our baptism, in our prayers, in this sacrament of Holy Communion; whether we come to God often or whether it’s been a while since we sought to come into God’s presence. 

Wherever we each are with our faith today, God is there for each and every one of us. God longs to welcome us to the altar that we may draw close to God. God loves to continue to pour out upon us love and grace, and call out to each and every one of us: You are my beloved daughter; you are my beloved son. Amen.