Light of All Nations
Baptism of the Lord
January 8, 2023
Jane Shelton, TRE
I think I would be remiss if I did not mention or at least recognize this past week’s day of Epiphany. Growing up without the knowledge of the liturgical calendar, it is one of my favorite things about being Presbyterian, and learning the different seasons of the liturgical calendar and all the important dates celebrated throughout the year.
So yes, Epiphany, the 12th day after Christmas occurred on Friday, January 6th. This is the day celebrated as the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles as represented by the Magi, a/k/a the Wise Men, who arrive to pay Jesus homage. They come from the East and arrive at Herod’s door to inquire as to where the child who has been born king of the Jews is located so they can bring him gifts. Herod then sends them on the journey to find the rumored newborn King of the Jews. The star leads them to the house where they see the child and his mother, Mary, and they become overwhelmed with joy. This is the Cliff notes version of Epiphany, the day the Wise Men announce and reveal the good news of Jesus. What a glorious day of joy indeed!
And with this brief precursor, we continue to today’s scriptures which takes us right to the heart of the Gospel, which begins with the Baptism of our Lord. The scripture that reveals the Voice from Heaven announcing his Son Jesus, his Beloved. The same Voice that is over the waters, the Voice of God.
With Epiphany and the Baptism of our Lord, Christ is revealed to us, and our journey begins toward Easter when our Christ will overcome death, when we are shown death cannot defeat our Lord.
It is so simple, yet we sometimes make it complex. Maybe we overthink the good news of the Gospel and what it means.
Now I don’t know about you, but I tend to be an over thinker. For example, just this week, on Wednesday, I was working at my desk when this screeching sound came screaming from my phone. I looked down, and on the now red screen of my cell phone were the words, TORNADO WARNING, a tornado or conditions for tornado were ongoing and the alert was informing me to find a safe place immediately.
So, the first thing I do is look at my computer where I’m working, and think, should I finish this…do I have time, but looking at the red screen warning on my cellphone staring back at me, I head for my bedroom closet.
Now, over the years, Dick and I have discussed which closet is best to be in to have the chance of surviving a tornado. Having a pretty open floor plan in our house, we basically have two places from which we can choose, our hall and hall closet area between our living room and study, or our master bedroom closet between our bedroom and garage. We have agreed the best choice is the master bedroom closet. So with this knowledge, I pick up my cell phone, and my iPad and head to that closet.
However, Dick is not currently at home but at a doctor’s appointment, so as I sit in the closet alone watching the weather radar, I begin to rethink our decision. Am I truly in the best location, or would the hall closet be better? Oh yeah, the reason we abandoned the idea of the hall closet is the fact the air conditioning unit is over that area, and could we survive having an air conditioning unit fall on us…maybe not. Not to mention there are numerous large oak trees lurking overhead right outside.
So I’m replaying this as I’m in the other closet, and as I think of something falling on my head, I begin to recount what is in the master bedroom closet that could fall on my head. Let’s see, there are a few suitcases on the top shelf, but I should be able to survive those. But we have a large, heavy cedar chest of drawers which could fall on me, and I may have some broken bones, but maybe I could survive that.
At this moment, I think I should go grab a couple quilts off the bed and a pillow in the event I feel I need to protect my body and head with a little cushioning from such blows. As I step out the closet, I see the large window across the room, and think I should open the curtains so that I can peek out and see how severe the storm is getting, the rain and the wind. And in the moment I throw back the curtains, I think, should I open the curtains though, because if that window breaks, the heavy curtains may help some of the breaking glass from flying through the house, but I quickly decide I’ll take that risk. I grab the quilts, the pillow, and head back to the closet where I resume watching the radar from my iPad. I say a prayer for all those in harms way. Then my mind goes back to wondering if this is the safest place. After all, there is a car right outside one of the walls, and a gas water heater nearby that could possibly explode.
It’s right about this time of my over thinking that the phone rings. It’s Dick calling to say he has completed his visit at the doctor’s office, but he has been advised by the staff to not leave the office until noon, until the storm passes. So as he finds a seat in the lobby, we continue our phone conversation. I recap where I am located in the house, and rethink with him if he still thinks it is the best place for me to be. Upon confirming, yes, he thinks it is, I begin to tell him about the radar and the death screeching warning on my cell phone that alerted me of the danger of a tornado. Then I say to him, “Just so I know, if the weather gets worse, and I hear a tornado coming through the woods behind our house, do you want to stay on the phone and hear me screaming and crunching of wood, or would you rather I hang up and not say anything.”
“I would rather stay on the line,” he says, “because I would want to be able to call 911 if something bad happened.”
Okay, so we have that settled, and we resume our conversation. Then he says, over thinking his situation, “You know, I probably would have been better off back in one of the examining rooms than out here in the lobby surrounded by glass windows.” To which I agree, and we continue our conversation with him remaining in the lobby.
Then somehow, I hit the mute button on my phone, but I don’t realize it, and he’s asking “hello, hello”, and I’m replying, “I hear you, hello!” And just as I realize what I’ve done. I hang up to call him back, but the phone immediately rings, and as I answer I explain to him that I had accidentally pressed the mute button, and then I say,…….. “I’m sure glad you didn’t call 911!”
Over thinking. It’s what we do as humans!
In her book, “Don’t Overthink It,” Anne Bogel writes, ‘You can overcome negative thought patterns that are repetitive, unhealthy, and unhelpful and replace them with positive ones that will bring more peace, joy, and love into your life.”
She goes on to say that we can begin to describe ourselves differently, people who are capable of experiencing less decision angst and more joy and peace, people who can become better equipped to gracefully pivot when things don’t go as planned, and people who can put overthinking aside to welcome good things into their lives.
Whether we realize it or not, our thoughts are intimately connected to our health and well-being. Perhaps, this is why Jesus would find times away from the disciples and crowds so that he could find time to pray, to meditate, and most importantly, focus on his relationship with his Abba Father, the Voice over the waters. The Voice of strength and peace.
Just as the disciples were witness to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, so are we, and we can choose peace over decision angst, allowing more time for joy and productive thinking.
We have been given a new covenant, a new light to all nations. No one has to sit in darkness any longer, and for this we can give God the glory and the praise.
Just as God was with Jesus to protect him from evil, to hold him up when evil surrounded him, and to give him strength to overcome evil, so he also is here with us. We don’t need to over think it, we just need to believe it.
Winifred Gallagher, a freelance journalist, said, “Far more than you may realize, your experience, your world, and even your self are the creations of what you focus on.”
What is your focus? Gifts of Christmas or the birth of a Christ Child? The idea of a dove diving in from heaven, or an awareness that a Voice at a baptism so long ago named this Christ Child his Beloved and anointed him with the power of the Holy Spirit? Is your focus on angst or joy, worry or peace love or hate?
In baptism God claims us and names us Beloved. In baptism Christ joins us to himself and to one another. In baptism the Spirit is poured out upon us.
God is here! Let this be our focus!
*Cover Art Stushieart, used by subscription