Today, for the last time this liturgical year, we celebrate Christmas. Today, we get to say once more – merry Christmas. During these days of Christmas we have been thinking about the gift of mercy God has shown us in Jesus. At his nativity we remembered that Jesus is manifested as the promised “Emmanuel” -- God with us. God’s mercy has been shown to us. At his epiphany we remembered that Jesus is manifested as the savior of the nations. All peoples, symbolized by the Magi, have been included in God’s plan of salvation as co-heirs to the blessings promised to Israel. God’s abundant mercy has been shown to us.
Today, in this feast of the Baptism of the Lord, Jesus is manifested as the Beloved Son of God. In this we are shown in ever more detail the gift of mercy to us through Jesus.
First of all, we see more clearly today what Jesus does for us in his role as messiah. Luke chapter 3 is the opening act of the public ministry. The very first thing that Jesus does is to go to the Jordan river.
The Jordan has been the scene of several of God’s amazing works of mercy. Remember the first one. Moses had been leading the people of Israel in their exodus from slavery in Egypt into the freedom of the Promised Land. They had been wandering in the desert for 40 years. God was raising up a new generation of the faithful to enter into the Promised Land and inhabit it. Moses saw the Promised Land, but died before entering in. The new leader was Joshua. He was the anointed one of God – the one whose name means “God saves.” He led the people to the river. He held his staff over the river. God parted the waters for the people, and they passed through to enter the Promised Land
Let’s remember another spectacular act of God’s mercy. Elisha the prophet was calling Israel to repentance, because they had wandered from the faith. Namaan the leper, was from a different country. He heard about Elisha, and with faith in the God of Israel he asked for healing. So Elisha told Naaman to bathe in the Jordan river 7 times, and then he would be clean. At first Namaan did not want to do this, but then he consented to wash himself in the Jordan and did so 7 times. And after the 7th time his skin was clean and pure again. He was healed of his sickness.
God’s mercy for us was shown dramatically when he made a way out of slavery and a way for healing. Exodus and healing. These themes connect with what John the Baptist was preaching. He was the forerunner of the messiah, preparing the way.
· Preparing the way for Jesus to lead the people out of the slavery of sin and into the heavenly promised land.
· Preparing the way for Jesus to heal Israel and through Israel all of the nations.
· Preparing the hearts of the people to go with Jesus by calling them all to repentance.
When Jesus went down to the river Jordan – when Jesus went down into the waters of baptism – something amazing happened for all of the people – and for all of us today.
Jesus made all of the waters of baptism a place of exodus for us.
Through the waters of baptism we have a way out.
A way out of sin. A way out of violence. A way out of injustice. A way out of alienation.
A way out of everything that separates us from one another and that separates us from God. Jesus leads us in the way of purity, peace, justice, and unity toward our heavenly homeland. This is the new exodus that Jesus began when he went down to the river Jordan.
Jesus made all of the waters of baptism a place of healing for us. The old curse of original sin was broken there. The voice of God was heard saying to Jesus “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” What God the Father was saying to Jesus the Son becomes a blessing over all of the baptized. What God the Father saw in Jesus the Son at that moment, he sees in each of us. Belovedness.
This baptismal grace shows us that God is doing a new work of mercy in the world. God’s mercy is so very much needed. Today, instead of slavery in Egypt, people are enslaved by a global culture of death, addictions, attacks on the family, persecutions against people of faith, and the rise of terror and fear. The world is infected with that terrible leprosy of the spirit of anti-Christ manifested by those who want to impose the new world order.
But while multinational anti-Christ forces scheme and manipulate, something new is happening. Today is the year of favor from the Lord. This is the extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy. The Lord is revealing his mercy in powerful ways.. Now is the time to remember our belovedness in God and live as his saints. Now is the time to be messengers of mercy. This is the time for a new exodus out of the slavery of sin. This is the place for a new healing from the leprosy of the culture of death. And we, the church, are to be the instruments of God’s mercy and healing.
On this feast of the Baptism of the Lord, let us pray for a new baptism in the Holy Spirit, that we may be infused with grace and courage for the mission set before us. Hear once again, the words of the prophet Isaiah, spoken to us in a fresh way as a sign for this Year of Mercy. Listen!
“I, the Lord, have called you for the victory of justice,
I have grasped you by the hand;
I formed you, and set you
as a covenant of the people, a light for the nations,
to open the eyes of the blind, to bring prisoners from confinement,
and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness.”
Dear people, you are baptized Children of the Most High God. The year of mercy is upon us and this is the generation chosen and elected from all eternity for this. Let’s do this!