While “commercial Christmas” ends abruptly on December 26, with tree carcasses on the sidewalk and stores already stripped of their Christmas decorations, we in the Christian household know that Christmas is 12 days long! The 12 Days of Christmas are book-ended with the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6. In the early church, and still today in the Eastern churches, the Baptism of the Lord was the event associated with Epiphany, not the coming of the Magi.
Jesus, in his baptism, is affirmed as God’s beloved child, a “big claim” in the ancient world—and in ours, too! He next undergoes a time of discernment and trial in the wilderness and emerges with a calling so strong that even death itself is powerless against his message of God’s love. In his preaching, Jesus encourages us to live “as if” God’s kingdom were already among us… because in many ways, it is!
There are several important points here for us to consider in the Baptism of Jesus. First, Jesus at 30 (the traditional age at his baptism) was not a young man. The average lifespan in Jesus’ time and place was about 45, so Jesus’ new beginning in his ministry happens later in his life. Second, Jesus is affirmed by God not because he’s done anything powerful (yet), but simply because he shows up. All he does is, in a way, his response to the unconditional love of God that he experiences in his baptism.
We at St. Catherine’s can take some lessons from this great feast of the church. First, it’s never too late for a new chapter! Just as Jesus began his ministry as an older person, we are beginning a new chapter together through our Strategic Visioning process. Even though we have a rich and wonderful history, we are called always to look and move forward, never backward. As we gather at the end of this month for our Annual Meeting (Sunday, January 22), we get one more opportunity to embrace God’s future of abundance with courage and wisdom and love.
Like Jesus, we, too, are affirmed as God’s beloved before doing anything. Nothing we do as church is done to “earn” God’s love: God’s love is always there, shining upon us like the Sun. All we need to do is to explore how the Holy Spirit is calling us to respond to that love in gratitude.
This response of gratitude is meant to be the foundation of all our ministries, our stewardship, and our identity… we are God’s beloved, and we are grateful for that, and so we reach out into the world to let everyone else, too, know that they are equally God’s beloved. Our actions as church: actions of service, of welcome, of sharing our resources, are all to be grounded in our gratitude for this powerful experience of acceptance and love. If all our choices and actions were a response of gratitude for this foundational divine love, the Kingdom would indeed be already here!
Fr. James H. Reho, Rector
Sunday 8:00 AM
Sunday 9:00 AM
HOLY EUCHARIST WITH MUSIC
Sunday 10:00 AM
Sunday 10:00 AM