On January 7th we celebrate the Baptism of Our Lord. It reminds me of what Martin Luther told himself in times of distress or anxiety: “Remember your baptism!” Locked up in the Wartburg Castle, faced with loneliness and despair, Luther attacked the devil not by shouting, “Be gone, devil!” but with shouts of “I am baptized!”
Well, how do I literally remember my baptism? I myself was an infant; I don’t remember a thing. Luther said we should daily remember our baptism. How does that work?
Rev. Kwanza Yu of University Church of Hope in Minneapolis said this about baptism: “The occasion may slip from your memory. You may forget the date, lose the certificate, the gown may fall away into dust. If so, you will have lost little. There will still be your baptism to give you strength, the voice to remind you of who you are, the task to which you have been called, and the Holy Spirit to empower you. In that we can live.”
There will still be the voice to remind you of who you are. And WHOSE we are.
The baptism of Jesus was a bit different than the baptism than we now know, where we baptize babies or teenagers or adults in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Baptism has meant much in our traditions – salvation, a welcome into the family of the Christian church, forgiveness of sins, rebirth, and renewal. Although people of any age can be baptized, we also baptize babies. We do this because we understand baptism as a gift from God that doesn’t have to be earned, studied, or even wholly grasped, intellectually, to be received. Baptism is a gracious gift to us of new life!
Now, in the church season of Epiphany, consider the meaning of that word epiphany as a revelation or something shown. When we say, “I had an epiphany!” we mean that a sudden new insight or understanding came to us. What place does baptism have in our lives, what place CAN it have, and how does it bring new insight and understanding to our lives as Christians?
Perhaps, as we hear the story of the infant Jesus receiving the gifts of the wise men, we might reflect upon God’s gift of baptism to us as new light, new understanding, new ideas and insight that will lead us into our future, wherever God leads us. As truly an Epiphany!
So, a prayer of baptism: God of the flowing waters, you anointed Jesus with the Holy Spirit and revealed him as your beloved Son. Keep all who are born of water and the Spirit faithful in your service, rejoicing to be called your children. Amen!