Like a teacher, who wipes the backboard clean, we are on to a new subject: 2022! A new year is like a moment while climbing a mountain when we stand still and look around to see where we are and where we have still to go.
Source: A new year look – The Zimbabwean
People make resolutions to improve or change their ways. Some don’t have the room to make choices. I am thinking of a young man who has no job and has just lost his wife, the mother of their two young children.
The Church somehow chose this time of year to present us with events which help us stop for a moment and look around: the birth in Bethlehem, the visit of the wise men and now the baptism in the Jordan. The baptism may seem the least exciting. It has no rousing carol to accompany it, no ‘Once in David’s royal city’, but it had its drama. It is mentioned by all four evangelists. So it must be important. If in Bethlehem he was born and later shown to the wise men, at the Jordan he was announced, ‘sworn in’, for the task. A ‘voice from heaven’ called him ‘my Beloved’.
From now onwards the great work would begin and each year we can renew our commitment to do our part. The word ‘baptism’, whatever its origins, has come to mean ‘belonging’. ‘We belong to God’ (1 John 5:19). I now belong to the community Jesus founded. That means I have a part in his task. It also means there will be obstacles, lots of them. And divisions, ‘… daughter-in-law against mother-in-law …’
This week we buried Heather Benoy. She lived all her life in the same house in Zimbabwe. She was a great friend of John Bradburne who lived among the people with leprosy at Mutemwa. She was an uncomfortable person to be with at times because she seemed to like division! She had no problem in disagreeing with you at once if you said something not to her liking. But she cleared the air. She kept you on your toes. Those who knew her loved her directness, her authenticity, her love for the truth. She lived her baptism.
When Jesus was baptised, there was a lot of divisive language in the air. Years earlier Simeon foretold he would be ‘a sign of contradiction’ and John, at the Jordan, proclaimed this was the moment ‘when the axe was being laid to the root of the trees’ and ‘his winnowing fan is in his hand.’ It was a time of decision. Am I for, or against?
So, the new year is a time for rubbing the board clean and looking again at the issues that form my daily life. Are my choices life-giving – for me and for others? Or are they covers for self-interest, security and comfort?
January 9, 2022 The Baptism of Jesus Is 42:1…7 Acts 10:34-38 Luke 3:15…22