Dear Campbell UMC,
We will continue the “Keep Seeking” worship series this week with a focus on baptism. The story of Jesus’ baptism is recorded in all four gospels, at basically the same time (the beginning of Jesus’ ministry) and in the same form (Jesus comes to John in the river, John baptizes Jesus, and a miraculous sign follows) in each gospel account.
I wonder why the baptism of Jesus is an event all four gospels include, but his birth is not. I wonder why the two birth stories we have are so drastically different from each other, whereas the baptism story is pretty much consistent. I suppose it could be a simple matter of witnesses – there were more witnesses who were more concerned with recording events at the baptism than at the birth, maybe?
It could be a question of differing emphases among the four evangelists. For Matthew and Luke, it was important to write about the birth of Jesus, albeit for different reasons perhaps, which impels them to write about it differently. Mark and John, each with a particular agenda, chose not to include the birth event at all.
But all four included the baptism event as they recounted the story of Jesus’ life, and they did so very consistently, which may lend this event a stronger emphasis in a Christian life. To be sure, even as the celebration of the birth of Christ has been cheapened by wanton consumerism, the baptism of Christ has not. Baptism is purveyed solely in the church, which testifies to its significance in and for the faith.
This Sunday, we will celebrate the significance of the baptism covenant in our lives as we reaffirm or anticipate our own baptism. Periodically, Christians ritually remember baptism together in worship with liturgy, prayer, and enactment. This allows those who are baptized to remember and those who are yet to be baptized to anticipate the sacrament.
I look forward to these moments as very powerful, even transformational moments for individuals and congregations. And I am hopeful to see you all on Sunday, to touch again the waters of baptism, to remember, to anticipate, to worship together.
Grace and Peace,