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January, 12 2017

The Baptism of the Lord (A)

Rev. Tom Mannebach

 

In it’s "Man on the Street" column,

a local newspaper asked everyday people

an everyday question:

When should Christmas lights be put away for storage?

 

Each had a different answer.

One man replied, "The day after Christmas."

Another said, "Within two or three days after Christmas."

A third replied, "Not until New Years."

A fourth responded, "I like the lights. Leave ‘em

out all winter."

 

The question is pretty open-ended.

When it comes to outdoor lighting

and all the trimming that surrounds

the holiday season,

we each have our individual preferences

--our own sense of decorum--

about when to pull the plug

on the outdoor bulbs.

 

But if we as church

were asked the same question

as the man or woman on the street,

our response would surprise not only retailers

but anyone who gives the months of November and December

exclusive rights to the Christmas season.

 

As the church,

we would say that today’s feast,

the Baptism of the Lord,

would be the right time

to put away our lights and trees

for another near twelve months of hibernation.

 

The poinsettias and manger scenes

that we still see in church today

are not due (we hope) to a lazy or procrastinating

art and environment committee!

They remind us that the Feast of the Incarnation

celebrates not only the birth of Jesus,

but also his entrance into the human family.

 

It’s a family that widens over time.

It begins with the Holy Family,

shines with the Epiphany,

and grows with the help of John the Baptist

and the waters of the Jordan.

 

We also know

that the Lord’s baptism

was no ordinary baptism

(if there ever were such a thing).

 

After all,

how do you christen Christ,

the source of baptism?

How do you make the head

of the church

a member of a church that is

yet to be born?

 

No doubt, these questions

were known to the disciples.

And they have been pondered over

by saint and sage alike

for as long as there have been Christians.

 

To be sure,

these and other questions

are more than mere technical difficulties.

They speak to the incarnational mystery

of how perfect God unites

perfectly with imperfect humanity.

 

Through this mystery

we realize that the baptism of the Lord

is less about sinfulness than it is about solidarity.

Emmanuel who is with us

is also God who is entirely for us.

 

Through this mystery

we also come to realize

that the formation of a church

makes sense only in light of

the proclamation of a kingdom.

(Here the preacher may wish to name those areas-- locally or globally-- where the kingdom is yet to be fulfilled. He or she may also want to propose concrete ways that the community may rededicate itself to justice and peace in this new year.)

 

At Christmas,

the love of God has put a human face

on God’s beloved Son.

 

In baptism

we celebrate that the human face of Christ

is being remade into our faces

and that God is declaring to us

that we are beloved sons and daughters.

 

 

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