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Worship Theme: The Baptism of Jesus and Our Baptism

Sermon Theme: God’s Own Child I Gladly Say It

“[They] were both naked and they felt no shame.” How’s that for a Sunday morning attention getter? It catches the attention just as much in the Bible in Genesis 2. God created this world and it was perfectly good, including Adam and Eve and their newly instituted marriage. The Bible tells us they were perfectly comfortable with each other and with God. No shame, no fear, no embarrassment, no guilt—with God or with each other.

How tragically sad to see the immediate change when sin entered this world. Do you remember the very first things Adam and Eve did after they sinned? They covered themselves and they hid. You see, sin changes everything. It instantly fractures relationships with other people and with God, and it instantly changes how you view yourself.

Imagine that! There were literally no other people on the planet except a husband and a wife, and they still felt the need to cover themselves. Instant shame and embarrassment, lack of self-confidence, lack of comfortability. Instant fears about what the other thought and an implied lack of trust. It’s as if they instantly doubted their love for each other. And yet, far worse than that was the shame, embarrassment, guilt, and fear they had about what God would think about their sin. So, they tried to hide, instantly doubting whether God would still love them.

How foolish! As if fig leaf coverings or camouflage could fix the damage that had been done! You realize, of course, this was nothing more than a coping mechanism by desperate sinners for dealing with their fears about being loved by others or by God. Sadly, from that moment forward, we humans have been following in the footsteps of our first parents ever since. Oh, we don’t use leaves anymore, we’ve concocted all kinds of new ways to cope with our personal fears about being loved.

Just think for a moment how much time you spend worrying about what other people think of you. We stare in the mirror and rue the wrinkles and loathe the love handles. We cast jealous eyes at the bold and beautiful celebrities. We spend billions of dollars on cosmetics and clothes, plastic surgeries, accessories, technology, tools, and toys.

Why do we even wear makeup or buy trendy things or dress in certain ways? Are we not shaped by our own culture? Are we not lured into thinking we’re not good enough or pretty enough? Why do we photoshop and airbrush pictures? Why do we normally post only the highlights and successes of our lives on social media, boasting about ourselves and our children (or grandchildren) and waiting to see how many people click like?

Why do we spend our entire lives trying to fit in? Am I a cool kid in school or am I a loser? Am I an athlete or a band kid; am I the class clown or in the party group? Am I popular or unpopular? Do my teachers like me and approve? Do my parents like me and approve? Do my boss and coworkers like me? Do my peers like me? My colleagues? My in-laws? Am I valued? Am I appreciated? Does anyone like me for who I am? Does anyone love me?

If you’re not comfortable with yourself, or what you think of yourself, or what you think other people think of you, if you feel lonely or unloved, what are the fig leaves you cover it up with? A carefully curated social media profile that makes things look better than what they really are? Worldly “stuff” like buying things or vacations or experiences? Alcohol, marijuana, or vapes to blow of some steam and take your mind off of life? Giving your body into lusts and desires, or giving your body to other people? Or could it be just a half smile to “fake it til you make it” at work and at church, hoping other people will think you’re OK?

Oh, how sin fractures our relationships and our sense of worth and identity! Oh, the deep personal anxiety, shame, embarrassment, guilt, and fears that we try to cover up and hide! Oh, the hurt when we feel lonely and unloved! And if those aren’t painful enough, oh how sin has disrupted our relationship with God. Whether we recognize it or not, all of us have an intense, internal deep fear about what God thinks of us. Our consciences gnaw at us over the shameful things we have done. “What will God do to me because of this? Could I ever be forgiven?” Our hearts flutter when we face serious sickness and death. “Will I really be in heaven? Could I ever be loved by God?”

So, people have all kinds of bushes they use to hide from God try and cope with these divine fears. Some try to hide behind a denial of God existing. Maybe if they pretend God doesn’t exist, despite all the evidence, God won’t come to get them and there will be no consequences for life. Some create their own gods that suit their liking and their lifestyles. Maybe a custom god will fix their fears. Some get lazy and give up, as if God is no big deal or they will worry about it sometime later in life. Some obsess about trying to be perfect, as if earning eternal brownie points with their behavior.

Oh, how sin fractures our relationship with God! Oh, the deep personal anxiety, shame, embarrassment, and guilt we try to cover up and hide! Oh, the hurt when we feel lonely and unloved by God.

To be honest, all those fears of Adam and Eve, and all our fears, are fully justified. The shame and guilt are very real. The damage we have done is real. What sinners deserve in this life and after this life is truly nothing short of terrifying. I’m reminded of the words of the apostle Paul. “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?” I’m thankful Paul answered his own question. He said this, “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

Indeed, thanks be to God, that in his love and kindness he responded to Adam and Eve with grace and mercy. Yes, there would be consequences for sin—the greatest of which would be death. But God also promised that he would send a deliverer to crush Satan and save us from sin.

All during Advent we reflected on God’s promises—a Savior is coming; a Savior is coming! At Christmas we rejoiced that the Savior was indeed born into this world. For the last two Sundays we reflected on Jesus coming at just the right time and growing up as our faithful brother. But today, oh today! What a marvelous day! Today the Lord God bursts from the heavens, as if turning on blinding LED Christmas lights in the shape of a giant arrow to point at Jesus and say, “This is the One! This is the One I promised to send! He’s here to save you!”

The setting is one we can relate to. Broken and hurting sinners were looking for hope and were coming to John the Baptist. He was preaching that they should repent and turn to God, and baptized them for the forgiveness of their sins. Then Jesus entered the scene, the one John would point to as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

But strangely, Jesus came to be baptized. We might wonder along with John, why would Jesus need to be baptized? But that’s just the point. He didn’t need to be baptized for himself. He needed to baptized for us. Jesus entered into the waters of baptism with his perfection and power, so that when we enter the waters of baptism that could be transferred over to us.

Look again at what happened in v. 21-22: “When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.’” For the one and only time we know of in human history, our Triune God revealed all three of his divine persons to humans at the same time. God the Son was visibly and physically present in the person of Jesus, God the Spirit visibly descended in the form of a dove, and God the Father spoke from the heavens.

Like King David was anointed in the Old Testament reading today, but far greater, in this moment Jesus was anointed to be our Savior. The Father made clear how and why. Jesus is the one and only beloved Son of the Father. He has done all things well. He has pleased his Father with his perfect life. He would please his Father by perfectly obeying his will. He would buy back fallen humans with his life and his death and in our place.

Really you could say that at the baptism of Jesus, everything that Jesus is and everything that Jesus did was put into the Sacrament we call baptism. So, Jesus entered the Jordan River with a perfect life, the one and only human who has no shame, no guilt, no fears, no brokenness, no sin. And Jesus also took with him that life which would be a sacrifice, as John said, that would take away the sins of the world, and his future victory over death that he won with his resurrection. From that time forward, anytime there is a baptism in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—who were all present at Jesus’ baptism—that life and death and resurrection of Jesus are transferred over to the one being baptized.

How sad that there are millions of Christians who think baptism is nothing more than commitment on the part of a Christian, or something you do to join a church, or a way to get your life back on track as if it’s something I do for God! Oh no! Baptism is a miracle of grace in which God comes to us and gifts us a new life and identity in Christ! Everything that Jesus is and has done becomes ours. The Bible speaks of this so clearly.

Today we heard in Titus that God saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. In Galatians 3 it says that those who are baptized are clothed with Christ and become children of God. In Romans 6 it says that those baptized are buried with Jesus and rise to live a new life with Jesus. What a miracle! What grace! God gives forgiveness, life, and salvation to all who are baptized.

So just pause for a moment to reflect on what happens at a baptism. First, of course water is used. It could be a lot of water; it could be a little water. It’s not how much that matters because it’s God’s promises that give it power. The pastor says, “Receive the sign of the cross on the head and heart to mark you as a redeemed child of Christ.” Then the person is baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In that very moment, the Lord God bursts from the heavens, as if turning on blinding LED Christmas lights in the shape of a giant arrow to point to you and say, “You are my son/my daughter, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

What a miracle—a miracle worth remembering. So, we make every effort to do so. When we begin our services in the name of the Triune God, the pastor makes the sign of the cross, to remind us that we gather as God’s children claimed in baptism. And when we leave, we receive the blessing of our Triune God, the pastor makes the sign of the cross to remind us that we leave as God’s marked children claimed by him.

In fact, Martin Luther used to say that you can begin and end every day privately in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, making the sign of the cross and remembering that your sins are drowned in the waters of baptism and you have a new life in Jesus.

Friends, it could be easy for any sinner to despair in this life. When we look in the mirror and reflect on the things we have done, oh how Satan wants nothing more than to heap on the guilt and shame. Oh, how Satan wants you to be filled with fear that you could never be loved, especially by God. Don’t listen to that liar! Listen to God’s proclamation and promise, “You are the one I love; with you I am well pleased!” And then in our next hymn sing with all your heart: God’s Own Child I Gladly Say It, I am baptized into Christ! Amen.

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