Thought for the week January 10th 2021 The Baptism of the Lord
Now when all the people had been baptized and while Jesus after his own baptism was at prayer, heaven opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in the shape of a dove. And a voice came from heaven “You are my son, the beloved; my favour rests on you.” Luke 3:22
This Sunday concludes the season of Christmas. We celebrate the Baptism of Jesus which starts a time in our church calendar which eventually will lead us into the season of Lent.
Over the past few weeks, the church has been concentrating on the birth of Jesus Christ and the visiting of the infant Jesus by the Magi. We don’t hear a lot about Jesus’s childhood but we can imagine him growing up in his humble surroundings in Nazareth, helping his father with his carpentry. I’m sure as a small boy he did all the things that boys do, playing games and getting in to mischief, but as he grows, he learns from his mother and father, the rights and wrongs and moral teachings that parents give children in order for them to grow into decent human beings and be accepted into society. Little did they know what was ahead of them and how Jesus would have a world changing impact on all society then and 2000 years later! Now we fast-forward to when Jesus is a thirty-year-old man. We come to a moment in his life when Jesus is about to begin his public ministry which will eventually lead to his death, resurrection and ascension. Before he begins his ministry and the work that God has given him to fulfil, he comes to be baptized. He goes to John his cousin to baptize him. Jesus didn’t really need to be baptized as he was pure and free from all sin and Johns baptism was more about repentance and his aim was to baptize the Jews as a preparation for the Messiah’s coming so that they would be cleansed by water of any wrong doings, so as to be ready to meet the Messiah when the time came. But although John resists Jesus at first, Jesus insists that John baptize him. It may be that Jesus was confirming John’s work to the Jews, that he was right to prepare the way for him and also to show them that a new era was dawning, a new start for all mankind. As Jesus emerges from the waters, the crowd would have been aware of something extraordinary happening , they would have been able to see the clouds parting and the dove descending, feel the holy spirit and hear the voice of God saying “ you are my beloved son with you I am well pleased” Wow! can you imagine being in the crowd, standing by the river Jordan, on tiptoes, trying to see what was happening, seeing the people’s astonished faces, hearing the ripples of water fall as Jesus emerges from the water, feeling a sense of wonder, rebirth, renewal, you would definitely feel without question that this was the long awaited Messiah, Jesus the son of the father. God introducing his son, and the beginning of his son’s ministry. Jesus’ baptism gave him the strength and support that he needed for the three years which lay ahead of him and we need his continued love and support to help us in our lives. As we start this new year and we reflect on what a year we have had or will have, some of us with sadness some of us with great joy, some with indifference, it is a good time to think about renewing our faith and thinking of new ways to kick-start our own spiritual journey. Let us imagine ourselves standing by the river Jordan and being cleansed by Jesus. Having all our angst and any past bitterness we might have, washed away and replaced by the Holy Spirit, having that sense of renewed faith and free from those things we have done that disappoint ourselves, and more importantly disappoint God. I find it quite liberating sometimes to sing the verse in Charles Wesley’s uplifting hymn ‘And can it be’ where he writes:
“Long my imprisoned spirit lay, fast bound in sin and nature’s night,
Thine eyes diffused a quickening ray
I woke, the dungeons flamed with light
My chains fell off, my heart was free
I rose, went forth and followed thee!”
At the end it’s a wonder that those I may be singing next to don’t hear my sigh of relief. Phew! I feel better for that!! I know that the chains are a metaphor for our burdens etc. But if it were literal and being totally honest with myself, I would be like Marley’s Ghost, if my chains fell off you would need a HGV to remove them!
But joking apart, in this new year, let us be re-energised and as the Lord forgives us let us try to forgive those who may have hurt us, for whatever reason, big or small, we may or may not be able to forget, but in light of this last year and the way it has changed so many people’s lives, in good ways and in bad, doesn’t it seem a little petty and futile to hold on to those thoughts and feelings that ultimately make us miserable and more importantly, keep us from having a wholesome true relationship with God. Let us move on with a lighter heart, it’s good to have a bit of friendly, cheeky banter but let’s ditch the Mee-mawing (as we say in the north) and try to be kinder to each other. I know it’s easier said than done and who am I to preach! After all we are just human and its part of our makeup but we can at least be aware and maybe catch ourselves before we act? It may not stop us but it’s a start. During this pandemic, it’s been amazing how resilient people have been in finding ways to keep our fellowship together, organising Zoom meetings, virtual choir, virtual services including Sundays Cool and yes, even carolling scarecrows! Thank you so much for all your hard work and effort, it really has kept us connected. Now Let us try to move on this year with a positive attitude, we have a vaccine that despite the logistical problems will hopefully be the start of us getting back to as normal life as possible, being able to hug our family and friends, singing in real choirs going out to dinner, theatre, cinema’s, parties, but more important is getting together in fellowship to praise, love and serve our Lord.
Dear Lord, as we begin 2021 I ask that you would watch over us and give us the strength to keep moving forward.
I pray that the world will overcome this pandemic and that you help to heal all those who have suffered in anyway.
I pray that this New Year will be filled with joy, peace, love and hope and that you continue to watch over us. Keep us and our loved ones safe and guide us in choosing the right path to take.
Lord heal the broken people, make well the sick, restore happiness to those in despair, bring love to the lonely, food to the hungry and peace to our world.