Our Lord’s Baptism and Christmas
Today we celebrate the Baptism of Our Lord and the end of the Christmas Season. Doesn’t it seem odd that we end Christmas with Jesus Christ as an adult starting his public ministry? This seems such a big leap, to go from being a few days old to some thirty years of age.
Yet the real big leap comes with God choosing to become man, taking flesh in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary—God becoming an embryonic child—and then to become part of a family. This is what Christmas is all about… it is about family, teaching us that the Word of God wanted to be fully human, and that to be fully human one needs to be part of a family.
Christmas is followed by the feast of the Holy Family. Family is a communion of love that is open and welcoming to new life… to divine life. Jesus Christ entered the world as a baby a communion of intimate love with the Virgin Mary and the Virgin Joseph, whose intimate relationship with each other formed the warmth of an affectionate home that welcomed the God-mane into this world and that nurtured his humanity in love.
January 1st, the 8th day of Christmas, the Word made flesh is circumcised, becoming part of the family of the circumcised and receiving the name “Jesus.” This name opens up for us the possibility of having a relationship with him because we can call this baby by his name—we can’t have a relationship with someone without knowing his name. January 1 is called the feast of the Divine Motherhood of Mary because it is the day she begins calling her son—the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity—by his name, Jesus, acknowledging her maternal relationship to the Son of God. Thus Mary is the Mother of God. St. Joseph also calls the Son of God by his name as his earthly father, sharing Mary’s relationship to the divine in a very personal and intimate way, more intimate than any father with a son or daughter.
Sunday following January 1st is the Epiphany, when the three wise men from the east come to adore the child Jesus with his mother. They bring gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, acknowledging that the Holy Family is called to protect and provide for the child who is King of kings (gold), high priest (frankincense), who is called to die for his people (myrrh). Mary and Joseph do just that, as each family should.
Finally we celebrate the Baptism of Our Lord. Here Jesus Christ is a fully mature man who freely chooses to enter the waters of baptism. But instead of washing away sin—as the Son of God Jesus could have no sin—the waters drench Jesus with the Holy Spirit who comes to rest upon him in the form of a dove while a voice is heard: “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” Jesus has changed baptism into a divine action that makes us part of God’s family. When we are baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit we now take on God’s name—just as the Incarnate Word took on “Jesus” at the circumcision. We become part of God’s family, able to call God the Father, “Abba,” Daddy; to call Jesus Christ our friend, our brother, our Love; when we become temples of divine Love and Life, the Holy Spirit.
So just as at Christmas God takes on our humanity by entering into the intimacy of the Holy Family, so too it is fulfilled in the Baptism of Jesus Christ, whereby we become “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4) by entering into the intimacy of God’s family. What a great gift! And it all begins with Christmas and culminates at Jesus’ baptism.
So, this is what Christmas is all about… it is about family… about God entering the human family so that we can become fully and permanently part of God’s.
Yours In Christ,
Fr. John R. Waiss
Image Credit: John Salmon / St Michael & All Angels, Lansdowne Drive, London Fields, London E8 – Mural