Baptism of Our Lord – St. Luke 3:15-22
The Christmas trees have been taken down and stored away, likewise the other decorations. All of the visitors who came peering in to see what was going on, have dispersed. The stores have all moved on to Valentine’s Day and to spring. The world has lost interest in the carols and the cards and in the nativity scenes that once so populated the land.
In other words, the 7 week holiday from life is over, and it is time to get back to work.
Now do not shake your heads in anger and disgust, once more despising a culture that has no interest in what is going on in this thing we call the Christian faith. For in reality, it is time for us to move on as well.
For all its drawbacks, the manger was a wonderful place to be. For ever so brief a moment in our lives, we annually gather together and are not totally despised by the world. For say what you will, the world still allows for the celebration of Christmas, even if we do so a little differently than everyone else does. The world still gathers with us around the manger and acknowledges for a moment that it is really the birth of Jesus, not the coming of Santa, that causes us to celebrate.
But like I said, the holiday is over. Both for the world, and for the Church.
The world could not leave fast enough. As soon as the last hymn was sung on Christmas Eve, the world was on to other things. The Church, well, we lingered at the manger a little longer, waiting for those last few stragglers from the East to join us in our celebration, to welcome the Christ child with their own unique gifts truly fitting for a king.
And yet today, the holiday is over, and it is time to get back to work.
Perhaps you came this morning, wondering what obscure Christmas carol there might still be left to sing. Perhaps you occasionally stare at the place where the tree once stood in your home, and lament the now dark and empty space. Maybe you found yourself checking the various cable stations for one more special about the so called lost Gospels with their false accounts of Jesus childhood.
Yes, much like the Monday after a long break, we dread the reality that it is time to move on.
Christmas is the time of year we love after all; the hymns, the readings, the candles, the message. Christmas is about how a little baby in a manger is going to save the world from its sins; how this baby in the manger is the one long promised to Eve, that He would crush the head of the serpent.
The rest of the year is seeming all about Jesus teachings, and promises of a future with Him. The rest of the year is nice, and we look forward to certain texts and our eyes light up when certain hymns are sung. But nothing is like Christmas.
That is after all why the rest of the world is so eager to leave right after Christmas Eve; they think they have gotten everything. They sang the hymns they wanted to sing; they heard the Gospel they wanted to hear; they even got the candles.
The rest of the year is not so cheerful; not so exciting; not so easy to listen too; especially if you do not want to hear the message that is coming.
What is that message? A message where we are told that our way of life is sinful and unclean. A message that reminds us that the things that the world screams about are often contrary to God’s Word; a message that normally ends up being the same – we are poor miserable sinners, unworthy of the grace and mercy that God so freely bestows upon us.
That message starts off innocently enough today. Jesus goes to the Jordan River to be baptized by John. Like the first day back to work after a holiday, nothing big is planned, nothing too difficult; just a simple trip to the River to be baptized.
And yet, today is when it gets real. Today is when we separate the believers from the unbelievers. Today the line is drawn in the sand. Today is when everything changes.
Jesus has been in obscurity for 30 years. Outside of Bethlehem, hardly anyone remembers the events surrounding His birth. Most people in Nazareth wonder when He will take a wife and start a family, and live out His days as a carpenter, just as Joseph did. One could even excuse Mary for occasionally forgetting the words of Simeon that a sword will pierce through her own soul as well for what Jesus will endure during His earthly life.
And yet today, in the waters of the Jordan River, it all changes. It all becomes real. The prophecies, the promises, the signs and wonders; all of it is about to come about in this person of Jesus.
And today, it all becomes real that in order to live, Jesus has to die.
In order to live, you have to die.
Gone is the manger; gone are the shepherds and wise men; gone is Bethlehem; gone is the heavenly chorus singing alleluia.
Taking their place is the cross, and the Pharisees and the Romans soldiers. Taking their place is a crowd crying out for Barabbas. Taking their place is a tomb.
Now do you see why the world leaves after Christmas Eve? Everything else looks like pain and sadness; everything else looks like suffering and death; everything else looks like an innocent man dying for the guilty.
Everything else looks like Jesus dying for your sins; and how you are not worthy of such an action.
At least, that is what the world thinks.
The world thinks that today, everything gets more complicated; everything gets harder; everything gets a little too real.
But you know better.
You know that today is just as exciting, just as joyful, just as good as it was when the little Lord Jesus lay down His sweet head in the manger on Christmas Eve. You know that today, the wait is over, and the clock is ticking to the yet more glorious day of Easter, and then to the day when Christ will come to judge the living and the dead, and take us to eternal glory with Him.
Today, after 30 long years, Jesus no longer lives in the obscurity of Nazareth, no longer only resides in the lure of Old Testament prophecies; no longer is just a threat to Satan. Today, it just got real.
Today, the devil and the world are put on notice: today Jesus rises up from the waters of the Jordan and hears the voice of His Father say ‘This is My beloved Son; with you I am well pleased’; soon people will hear of the miracles and signs and wonders that He does; soon the parables and the teachings of the kingdom of God will be on the hearts and minds of all people; soon Mary will hear the angel say ‘He is not here, He is risen’.
Today, it gets real for Jesus.
Today, it gets real for you too,
No longer are you waiting, no longer are you hoping, no longer are you discouraged. Today, you know that the Lord is in your midst; that He has come to redeem you from sin, death and hell. Today you see the reality that it is not a baby in a manger who saves you, but the one hanging on the cross and rising from the tomb who does so.
Today is all about the business of salvation. Today is all about redeeming you and all who believe from the condemnation you face. Today is all about the salvation of the world.
The holiday is most definitely over, for today is no longer about ox and donkey and sheep and camel; today is no longer about shepherds and wise men; today is no longer about gifts and meeting strangers in the temple.
Today is all about the one who will save us from our sins.
Today, it just got real.