This feast marks the ending of the Christmas season. Traditionally, the event of Christ’s Baptism was linked with the visit of the Magi and the wedding feast of Cana as two additional “manifestations” of God with us.
Matthew’s simple account of the Baptism ends with the heavenly voice introducing “my beloved Son.” Here, at the end of our focus on the mystery of Christmas, we are invited to welcome the Beloved One into our midst once more and to prepare ourselves through the Sundays which follow to hear His proclamation of Good News.
Many have expressed the wish that the spirit of Christmas last all through the year. Christians take that responsibility seriously – We want to make the meaning of Christmas—the fact that God has come to dwell with us in Jesus Christ — the central fact of life. And, we want all we say and do to help express, to make manifest, that basic truth. Merry Christmas, one more time!
The Baptism of Christ
A sermon by St Gregory Nazianzen (330-390)
Father and Doctor of the Church
Christ is bathed in light, let us also be bathed in light.
Christ is baptised, let us also go down with Him and rise with Him.
John is baptising when Jesus draws near. Perhaps He comes to sanctify His baptiser, certainly He comes to bury sinful humanity in the waters. He comes to sanctify the Jordan for our sake and in readiness for us, He who is spirit and flesh comes to begin a new creation through the Spirit and water.
The Baptist protests – Jesus insists. Then John says: I ought to be baptised by You. He is the lamp in the presence of the sun, the voice in the presence of the Word, the friend in the presence of the Bridegroom, the greatest of all born of woman in the presence of the firstborn of all creation, the one who leapt in his mother’s womb in the presence of Him who was adored in the womb, the forerunner and future forerunner in the presence of Him who has already come and is to come again. I ought to be baptised by you – we should also add, “and for you,” for John is to be baptised in blood, washed clean like Peter, not only by the washing of his feet.
Jesus rises from the waters – the world rises with Him. The heavens, like Paradise with its flaming sword, closed by Adam for himself and his descendants, are rent open. The Spirit comes to Him as to an equal, bearing witness to His Godhead. A voice bears witness to Him from heaven, His place of origin. The Spirit descends in bodily form like the dove that so long ago announced the ending of the flood and so gives honour to the body that is One with God.
Today, let us do honour to Christ’s Baptism and celebrate this feast in holiness. Be cleansed entirely and continue to be cleansed. Nothing, gives such pleasure to God, as the conversion and salvation of men, for whom His every word and every revelation exist. He wants you to become a living force for all mankind, lights shining in the world. You are to be radiant lights as you stand beside Christ, the great light, bathed in the glory of Him who is the light of heaven. You are to enjoy, more and more, the pure and dazzling light of the Trinity, as now you have received – though not in its fullness – a ray of its splendour, proceeding from the one God, in Christ Jesus our Lord, to whom be glory and power for ever and ever. Amen.