Baptism of the Lord Reflection by Gabriel Mayhugh
One of the most common comments that I hear on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord is, “Why are the Christmas decorations still in the church?” This is a very good question and one that will be on many minds today when the decorations are still up and we even hear some portions of Christmas Carols. In the liturgical year, the Season of Christmas is counter cultural. The Season of Advent was celebrated until December 24, and the actual Season of Christmas began in the evening of December 24. Christmas concludes today with the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. Today’s celebrations are well after the stores are no longer decorated in red, and our Christmas trees have been bagged up. The flow of time in the liturgical year moves from the darkness of Advent, to the light of Christmas and to the continuing revelation of the incarnation—Christ coming to live among us.
Tomorrow, the liturgical year moves from Christmas into (Winter) Ordinary Time. Some Christians of other traditions do not use the term “Ordinary Time.” Instead, they call it “The Time After Epiphany.” I personally like the term that the other traditions use. We celebrated the Solemnity of the Epiphany just last week. On the surface, the Solemnity was the celebration of the Magi who came bearing gifts. But on the deeper level, it is the revelation that Christ came to all nations as both human and divine. This is one of the most profound beliefs of Christianity: God became a human who walked the earth and experienced humanity just as we do. Over the next months we continue to celebrate the many epiphanies of Christ; the many ways that he expressed both his humanity and his divinity. We will hear about what he came to do and what we are called to do.
Today’s feast is another epiphany. Christ is baptized, marking the beginning of his public ministry. Many believed that John the Baptist was the Messiah. But he pointed to the Messiah. The voice of God then rings out, proclaiming, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” This voice from God is an inaugural statement affirming what Christ came to do: to be born, to live, to die and to rise (The Paschal Mystery). In our own waters of Baptism we died to our old self and entered into new life in the Paschal Mystery.
As baptized followers, how do we follow the many epiphanies that happen between Christmas to Pentecost and beyond? How do we look to John as he points the way to the Messiah? It is overwhelming, to say the least. Heal the sick, help the poor, be humble of heart, the last shall go first, forgive… on and on and on. This is where we live. We live in the events that do not yet make us holy people, but we also live in the events that do make us holy people. We live in the image of the resurrection, but our struggles are the many epiphanies of Christ and modeling what took place over his thirty-three years when he was physically among us.
We live in a time of already, but not yet. Our Christian life is about the epiphanies contained in the historical account of Christ. That is the “already.” It happened, and it continues to happen in our own epiphanies. Our life is also about the “not yet.” What is yet to come in Christ’s kingdom. With the guidance of the Spirit, we live between these two moments—already and not yet. Keep the many epiphanies of Christ’s life alive. Keep his baptism alive, and keep your baptism alive. Live it in your memory, live it in your present, and live it as hope for what is to come.