Readings, prayers and reflections are available below.
BAPTISM OF CHRIST SUNDAY 10th JANUARY 2021
Today's sermon is available as an audio recording here. Press play to start.
Eternal Father, who at the baptism of Jesus revealed him to be your Son, anointing him with the Holy Spirit: grant to us, who are born again by water and the Spirit, that we may be faithful to our calling as your adopted children; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord.
Acts 19:1-7, Mark 1:4-11.
We pray through Christ who has made us his own through baptism.
Give grace to us all that we may live according to the promises made at our baptism.
We pray that our world may know the healing power of God.
We pray for all who are sick, for Mary Maxwell and Paul Evans and for the many in hospital at this time, for their anxious families and friends and for all who care for them.
We pray for the departed who followed Christ in baptism and have passed with him through death to life. We pray especially for Alexander Rudelhof whose body will be laid to rest this week.
Here is my servant
In the sacrament of Baptism which we are called to consider once again, and appropriately, at the beginning of a new year, God is saying that through the waters of the font, through the anointing with holy oils, through the words of exorcism, there is a new disciple, a new servant of Christ, a new Christian. And, further than that, God is saying, that here is a new member of my family “whom I [will] uphold”, whom I will support within the Church, within the Body, and within the world, whom I will sustain with the sacramental system, whom I will feed with the Body and with the Blood, the manna of angels.
And, hard as it may seem when we look at ourselves and our failures and pitfalls into sin, that each of us is an individual in whom God delights. And we grieve his heart when we fail to live up to our solemn calling and Christian vocation.
The Christian religion as we experience it, is a series of theophanies and epiphanies, of God revealing himself and manifesting his truth to all humankind. Some have occurred in the past, specific in time and place but applicable for all time: the Nativity of Our Lord, his revelation to the Gentiles in the visit of the Magi, the Epiphany, the showing forth to the nations, his Passion and Crucifixion, his Resurrection and Ascension. The eternal truth of God broke into the world and transformed it by stooping lower than the angels and freely entering out human condition in full possession of his divine nature.
Those were once and for all time acts of salvation and redemption but we would be foolish to think that all interventions are over and done with: ours is a living and active God. The divine still manifests in the world: through the several appearance of Our Lady, through the demonstrable holiness of the saints, through the courageous witness of the martyrs. These are theophanies and epiphanies. These are reminders, grace notes of encouragement, examples for us in our continued witness, sometimes to bolster our struggles to witness. And, of course, Our Lord guaranteed his disciples then, and guarantees to his disciples now the abiding, animating presence of the Holy Spirit, the inspiration for all that we do in Christ’s name.
We are “to serve the cause of right … [to be a] light of the nations, to open the eyes of the blind, [to faith and truth] to free captives from prison [from the constriction and confinement of unbelief] and those who live in darkness.” It is a ministry of word and example, by professing our faith and by living out our faith in the day to day circumstances of our lives. It is nothing spectacular, nothing cataclysmic. It is the steady power of faithfulness, of persistent generosity, of constant love. Easy to say: rather more difficult to do, and do consistently.
In the Gospel this morning we hear familiar and moving words. As Jesus was baptised, as he emerged from the waters of the Jordan, the heavens opened and the Spirit of God, like a dove, came down upon him and the voice of God was heard: “You are my Son, the Beloved, with you I am well pleased.” It is not too fanciful to apply those words to our own Baptism. Those words apply to us, to the baptised: This is my child; this is my beloved, upon whom my favour rests. It imposes upon us serious obligations and responsibilities. “We celebrate the revelation of Christ … who takes away the sins of the world, accept our gifts and let them become one with his sacrifice.”
It is a precious, noble and onerous responsibility. Let us resolve anew in this new year of grace to live up to and to live out, insofar as it lies in our power, the vocation of our Baptism and so give delight to God.
Christ Church, Hampstead 2021