Very few of us remember our own baptism, and perhaps we have never really even questioned why it might be important, other than something we might need to attend a Catholic School or get married. Perhaps we need to look to Jesus’ baptism to know how privileged we really are to have been baptised.
What does Jesus’ baptism say to us? Jesus’ thirty years of preparation before his public baptism remind us that it takes time to get ready for God’s mission. How many countless hours did Jesus spend in prayer? What study, what thought, what agony must he have undergone before appearing in front of John to ask him to baptize him. We are reminded that baptism isn’t just something that happens to us as children, it’s something we have to live out on a daily basis.
January is a time for new beginnings and fresh resolution. John the Baptist was an expert on this. John’s ministry was all about repentance and life changing reform … that’s what his baptism was all about. But anyone who has ever seriously tried to change themselves will know how difficult change really is. The addict will tell you how difficult it is to quit gambling, drinking or cigarettes. All of us can point to parts of our life that remain stubbornly unchanged year in and year out. Those who were baptised by John were baptised as a sign of their intent to change from their old ways, but knowing how difficult change can be, we can’t help wondering how successful they must have been. Perhaps John appreciated this too when he said “I have baptised you with water, but he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit.”
Christians are hugely privileged people. We are told that the same Holy Spirit that empowered Jesus at the outset of his ministry, is the same Holy Spirit that is given to us in our baptism. Validating our baptism anew every day, knowing that we are filled with the Holy Spirit ….. change isn’t beyond any of us.