You are My Beloved in Whom I Am Well Pleased

 I have invited you in recent weeks to consider which voices you listen to.

The four Gospels each begin the story of Jesus in a different way. Luke and Matthew offer familiar accounts, but each from its own perspective. Luke tells us about the annunciation to Mary, the birth at Bethlehem, the visit by the shepherds. Matthew tells us about Joseph’s dream, the gifts of the Magi, the flight into Egypt. John’s perspective is different from both of these. His vision goes beyond the boundaries of space and time as he announces that before anything was made, God’s Word already was. Then he brings us down to earth again as he makes the great proclamation: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”

Mark's Gospel begins quite differently. We hear nothing about the birth of Jesus or his early years and there is nothing about the Word becoming flesh and dwelling among us. No, Mark’s Gospel begins with the baptism of Jesus. Jesus walks into Mark's Gospel not as a baby or a child but as a grown man.

Mark’s Gospel contains a different Christmas story, the account of Jesus’ baptism. Just as the other gospels reveal their entire plot through the gifts of the Magi, the Word made flesh dwelling among us, or the song of the Christmas angels, so Mark’s Gospel does the same. But Mark doesn’t beat about the bush, he comes straight in with what he considers to be essential and this is Jesus plunging into the depths of humanity and emerging to hear the words “You are my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased”.

If you are looking for hope, then remember these words, dwell upon them. For in a sentence they contain the entire good news of the Gospel. “You are my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

These words from heaven hold true as Jesus breathes his last on the cross and is buried in a tomb. These same words come true in an incredible way when, alive again, he bursts forth out of the tomb. Even the great wide world is too small to hold him as he ascends to his father, and there in glory they become true in a still more magnificent way: “You are my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

Well, you say, that’s great for Jesus, but what about us? At the Thursday liturgy this week, someone asked the question “why did Jesus need to be baptised?” Here’s the great mystery of this day, which makes our Lord’s baptism necessary and important. Jesus accepts baptism as an act of solidarity with the entire human race. His baptism is an enactment for all the world to see, there on the banks of the Jordan, of what it means for the Word to become flesh there in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

This is why the baptism story is also a Christmas story: it comes down to the same result as what happens on that silent night, holy night. In a single word, Emmanuel: God with us. God for us. God among us.

God for us all. Every last one of us human beings, without regard to age, race, gender, national origin, creed, sexual orientation, handicap, or anything else. God for us all, no matter what the circumstances of our lives. God for us all, and if God is for us, then who can possibly be against us? So, joy to the world, the Lord has come! And if you’re looking to find him, there he is! He just jumped into the river water to get baptized for the love of you and me.

And we are invited  to jump in right after him. That’s what Christian baptism and living the baptismal life is all about. He engages in a life of solidarity with us. We can engage in a life of solidarity with him.

Our baptism into Jesus means we hear the same voice he hears. The same message from heaven is aimed at us. God speaks to you as he speaks to Jesus and says the same thing: “You are my beloved, in whom I am well pleased.” This is why on Sunday mornings I greet you with the words “beloved people of God”, for that is who you are.

I’d like you to do something this week. Write these words down where you will see them often “---------you are my beloved in whom I am well pleased”.

Better yet, listen for that message. You don’t have to be up to your waist in river water to hear this message come at you like a bolt from heaven. Listen carefully to the events and people in your life, and by God’s grace, you will hear that message. It may come as a whisper, it may come as a shout, and some days it may even seem like a mumble, but that message will be there, because God is always speaking to you in one way and another. What God does is keep saying it, whether or not you choose to listen: “You are my beloved child, in whom I am well pleased.”

Some people say that Christianity is a matter of believing. There’s some truth in that. Some people say that Christianity’s a matter of doing. There’s truth in that too. But I want to add another piece, without which all the rest is sure to fall apart. Christianity is also a matter of listening. Listening for the message from heaven. Listening for what Jesus heard at his baptism. Listening for the same message spoken to us day by day in the events of our lives and through the people that God places in our path. Discipleship is more than a matter of belief and practice; it is knowing how to listen, and which voices are true.

I have spoken to you in the name of the God manifest at Christ’s Baptism: the Spirit, who descends from heaven as an empowering gift; the Son, who goes down in the water and rises again; and the Creator, who accepts Christ as their beloved child, and us in Christ. To this Trinity of amazing love be praise and glory, now and for ever. Amen.