Sermon for The Baptism of our Lord – 1.7.24

+ The Baptism of Our Lord – January 7th, 2024 +

Series B: Genesis 1:1-5; Romans 6:1-11; Mark 1:4-11

Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church

Milton, WA

 

“New Year, New Beginning”

 

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

If you’re like me, it’s nearly a week into 2024 and your head – and probably signature on official paperwork – is still stuck back in 2023. Even if we have trouble remembering what year it is…there is still this sense that with the new year comes a new beginning. There’s a fresh start. A clean slate. A chance for a do-over. A mulligan, for all you golfers – or mini-golfers out there.

 

There is a longing within us, a yearning, for a new beginning. And that ending we look for and never quite seem to find in this life, that is always just a little further outside of our grasp…we find it, or rather it finds us…in today’s Scripture readings for the Baptism of our Lord.

 

Each of our readings today marks a beginning of something new. Genesis – creation. Mark’s Gospel and the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, marked by his baptism in the Jordan. The beginning of your new life in Christ through your own baptism into his death and resurrection. Unlike our resolutions or best wishes for the new year, these beginnings are entirely up to God’s doing, and by his grace.

The opening words of Genesis says it all. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 

Creation dawns – not randomly or accidentally – but with a word. God says, “let there be light” and there is light. God speaks and light is created out of darkness. God’s word does what he says. Creation begins out of nothing. God brings order out of chaos. A new beginning by the breath of his almighty, creative word. And along with God’s voice at this new beginning of creation are a few other familiar gifts God gives throughout other new beginnings in the Bible: water, the Spirit, and light.

 

Fast forward to the Gospel of Mark, and this is no coincidence, the opening verses sound awful familiar. The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Mark’s gospel also marks a new beginning. John the Baptist announces it; he is the herald of the new beginning, of the dawn of the age of the Messiah. The people recognize this as a new beginning. They flock from all around Judea and Jerusalem, head out into the wilderness for a clean slate, a fresh start, a new beginning…

 

John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 

 

This is why we confess our sins and receive forgiveness in the absolution every Sunday. Like those crowds seeking John the Baptist, we long for and need the new beginning that comes with repentance and forgiveness of sins. And that is what God is doing here for us.

 

John’s preaching is only part of the story, though isn’t it. After me comes he who is mightier than I. There is another, and far greater, new beginning that John is preparing us for. It all begins in the Jordan River. The same river that marked the beginning of Israel’s entrance into the promised land. The same river that marked the beginning of Elisha’s ministry after Elijah. Is now the river where the true Israel and the greater prophet – the Son of God in the flesh – now marks the beginning of his public ministry…where by his life, by his temptation, by his teaching and miracles, by his death and resurrection and ascension – where he will make all things new.

 

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

 

Do you hear the bells of Genesis ringing in the background? I hope so. It’s all there. Water. The Spirit. Light. And God’s voice declaring. The heavens that he created back in the beginning Genesis, are now opened as he sends forth and publicly confirms that his only begotten Son has come to renew not simply creation, but to make new creatures out of old, sinful sons of Adam and Daughters of Eve. To bring light out of the darkness of our sin. To bring order out of the chaos we’ve created. To bring life out of the grave we find ourselves in. to call forth faith out of nothing just as he did when he spoke and made creation out of nothing. Jesus came to make a new beginning for you. In the Father’s announcement that Jesus is the beloved Son, we hear a preview of what the Father declares of each of you through Jesus: you are my beloved son, and in my Son I am well pleased with you.

 

But of course, Jesus’ Baptism is significant not only for him but also for you. Jesus stands in the Jordan River as a substitute. And it is a signal – that in him, through his life lived perfectly, life laid down sacrificially, his life raised up triumphantly – that he will make a new creation out of you as well. He does it the same way he did it in Genesis. Water. Spirit. Light. And his word.

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 

We seem to forget that while Baptism is a joyful, blessed, and holy gift, and a new beginning…it is also an end. And a violent one at that! Paul says it is our death. Remember your catechism. What does such baptizing with water indicate? It indicates that the Old Adam (our sinful flesh) in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, and that a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.

 

That new beginning we long for. That clean slate. That fresh start. You won’t find it in your hands, or anything you do or say. After all, resolutions quickly become regrets. Sin festers into guilt and shame. Chaos and death creep into our hearts, minds, thoughts, words, and actions faster than the ball dropping on new year’s eve.

 

All of that, however – all of your sin, doubt, despair, death, all of your guilt, shame, and regret – it all drops dead in Jesus. And in Jesus you are given an everlasting, eternal, and gracious new beginning. Through water and his Spirit and his word be brings you new life. He brings you something better than a mulligan…he shows you mercy. He brings you something better than a do-over. He declares, “It is finished.” For you. Though your sins were like scarlet, you shall be white as snow.

Behold, I am making all things new. For you, you who are in Christ, you are a new creation; the old has gone, and behold the new has come.

 

 

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Beautiful Savior

is a traditional Lutheran Church, faithful to God's Word and His Sacraments. We equip God's people to serve, love, and encourage one another as we grow in our personal relationship with Christ. We reach out to the community as beacons of light, sharing the love of God in Christ Jesus, our Savior.

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Friday 8:30am-11:30am

The office is closed on Fridays during the summer months of June, July, and August.

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Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday
8:30am-12:30pm

By appointment only June and July

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Address
2306 Milton Way
Milton, WA 98354
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(253) 922-6977
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