Weekly Devotion – 1/12/23

Devotion by Kim Wu

It feels a bit disorienting to go from the wise men worshiping the baby Jesus on one Sunday, to Jesus fully grown and being baptized the next week.  And yet, when you take a closer look, the timing is perfect for us to move to the message of baptism so quickly.

Advent is typically a season with a long to-do list for each of us; a season where we usually stretch ourselves to, and sometimes beyond, our limits on how much we can handle.  By the time the new year rolls around, we often crave a change.  A different version of ourselves.  A “better” version.  More organized, slimmer, more goal-focused.  The list of the new year resolutions can be a long one.

By the time Baptism of the Lord Sunday arrives, we can often feel dissatisfied with ourselves.  We see all the ways we fall short.  And if we’ve already lost our resolve on any changes we instituted on January 1, or we’re wavering on them, unsure of how we will manage to keep them going, we may be feeling particularly discouraged.

But then we get to Jesus’ baptism.  Notice that without Jesus even beginning his ministry, once he is baptized, God says, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17)  Jesus hasn’t really done anything yet, but God is pleased with him.  God loves him, and calls him His son.

Jesus’ baptism was about God naming him, claiming him as His beloved child.  So is our baptism.

It’s not about what we do, or what we have or have not accomplished.  It’s not earned.  It is God naming us as His children.  Will Willimon, a theologian and bishop in the United Methodist Church, writes, “the recipient of baptism is just that – recipient.  You cannot very well do your own baptism.  It is done to you, for you.  It’s an adoption, not an interview.”

So as we are reflect on Jesus’ baptism and remember our own, we need to remember that God loves each of us, whatever versions of ourselves we currently are.

Lutheran pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber tells a story about a man who described God’s love for him in this way: “God is crazy about me.”  She admitted that his way of describing God’s love for him was different that the usual, almost compulsory way we describe God’s love for us.  This felt like “the kind of love that breaks your heart and then makes it bigger.  A love that creates belovedness in the one it rests upon.”

Knowing that God is crazy about each of us is what launches us on “our journey from the (baptismal) font” that Pastor Will described in his sermon on Sunday.  Deep knowing of our belovedness in God’s eyes, especially in light of our many weaknesses, can unleash in us a willingness and desire to be in right relationship with God, and to share Christ’s love with others.

Remembering our baptism enables us to see beyond all our limitations, beyond all the ways we feel we are not enough, and see ourselves through God’s eyes.  We are God’s image bearers, His children who are called to reflect His image out into the world.

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