He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved. http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations
As the Christmas season ends, I feel a mix of joy and dissatisfaction. The joy comes in remembering the love I’ve just experienced— real conversations, warm embraces, laughter, tears. The liturgies and music of this season, so rich in beauty. Also, the stark winter landscape where I live: vivid sunsets, bright stars, bare trees. The chill that reminds me I’m alive.
At the same time, I close out this season dissatisfied. The visits and connections were all too short. Ordinary life has resumed without festivities to look forward to. I have given gifts, but puzzled over whether they were good enough—and whether I was good enough. My home and my life are cluttered, in disarray. Post-Christmas bills rain down.
In this time, it’s good to shift focus onto the baptism of Jesus. Many scholars agree on the historical fact that John baptized Jesus (as he did others). Unlike so many of us who are distracted in the post-Christmas season, however, John’s clear vision guided him. He urged his followers to repent, to change their ways. John knew that he was only pointing the way toward another—the One hoped for, the Messiah, who would baptize not with water but with God’s own Spirit.
I don’t recall my own baptism; others do. Yet, in this sacrament, I believe that God speaks a palpable message of love, of belonging, of being “good enough.” Join me in imagining what it must have been like for Jesus to hear those words: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
Do we dare, as Jesus did, to take in the message of God’s love?
—Mary Anne Reese is an attorney, poet, and member of Bellarmine Chapel, a Jesuit parish in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Oh God, you called Jesus your beloved Son. Help us as followers of Jesus to keep our eyes fixed on our identity as people who belong to you, who live in your love. Transform us, as this Christmas season draws to a close and we begin a new year together. We ask this in the name of Jesus the Christ. Amen.
—Mary Anne Reese