Happy New Year! This is the time of year when I wish you all a Happy New Year a few times over a span of a couple months. But with this particular New Year, there are actually parties and celebrations. Perhaps you’ve heard of a huge party on TV called Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve? Of course you have, pretty much everyone who has a TV and is at home on New Year’s and is still awake was watching it. And everyone has been doing so year after year since 1972. I remember watching this show when I was a kid, and how it was their ball drop in New York’s Time Square that was the definitive time the New Year actually started, regardless of what time the VCR would say. The program always had the most popular music acts, and spans over several states and time zones, just so that everyone is included in the festivities.
But, as it is with these live broadcasts, things don’t always go as planned. If you remember from last year’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, because I know every single person here saw it, global sensation Mariah Carey had this cringe worthy meltdown where she couldn’t sing her own song and blamed everyone other than her own reported failure to attend rehearsals. Check this out:
That was pretty awkward and painful to watch. That feeling you’re having right now inside is your whole body cringing at the awkwardness of that major fail. But hey, she’s Mariah Carey, so people forgave her even though she wouldn’t own up to her part in that mess up. They even invited her back for this last week, maybe to bury the hatchet and to prove to the world that she really can sing in the freezing cold. But this year had its own much more minor mishap. She sang well and was on cue and everything, but as I said, it’s freezing in Time Square on New Year’s, and… well… just watch this:
There it is again, that cringe. This time, over tea. She wanted hot tea but didn’t get it. And then called it a disaster, and was going to tough it out like “everyone else who didn’t have hot tea.” Um… ok. That isn’t just first world problems, that is like the elite .00001% problems. I mean really, hot tea? There were droves of people there all bearing the cold to watch her perform, and she was complaining about not having warm beverage? She had that giant fur coat on too, granted not much on underneath, but still a giant fur coat and she thinks not having tea to sip on during her 7 and half minutes on stage is a disaster?
But… I guess I don’t blame her for complaining. In her elite 0.00001% mind maybe not having hot tea on such a cold day under a giant fur coat is a disaster. Maybe she was trying to be funny. Or maybe, and I would argue this to be the case, she doesn’t know her fans well enough to get how her talking about not having tea just seems kind of… off.
Nothing against Mariah Carey, I actually am a pretty big fan of her stuff from the 90’s when she was just all that, but I do think that she has let herself slip a bit out of reality. Or perhaps I should say out of the reality of the majority of her fans. That is a reality without lots of money and travelling around the world. That is a reality without giant fur coats while singing on stage. And it is a reality that is just used to not having hot tea whenever it is asked for.
I know what you’re thinking, what on earth does all this have to do with baptism? Today is the Baptism of Our Lord Sunday after all, the day that we remember the gift of baptism and the significance it has on our lives. Today of all days, we might maybe perhaps get a glimmer of understanding of this age old sacrament that we perhaps don’t really know what it means. Well, one can hope, anyway, instead we get stories about hot tea.
It helps to know what the term baptism even means. The word “baptism” or “to baptize” comes from the Greek baptizo which means to be immersed, or covered, or completely engulfed. It would be similar to a wall being painted, in that it’s coated with this stuff that changes it into a different colour. Now, I’m not saying that we should get rid of our somewhat Lutheran tradition of baptizing in this small font with just a bit of water on the head and go for the full bathing experience that other denominations go for, but I’m saying that there is a symbolism in the water covering us in our baptism. There is an immersion there, perhaps not entirely in the water, but where we are injected fully and wholly into the community of Christ, welcomed and included among the saints, and changed to see God’s hand at work in our lives and in the world.
This immersion, this experience of being engulfed, this baptizo allows us to keep in touch with the Spirit, with our community, and in turn with the world, showing us how we fit in and what our role could be in contributing to the greater picture of God’s kingdom. Essentially, that is the image that is being painted in our baptism. With the gift of the water, Word, and God’s presence, we are brought into this world of grace, mercy, and peace. We are immersed in the Spirit of community, relationship, and love. We are brought into the physical hug of God, holding us in God’s arms, assuring us that we are welcome, included, and belong.
Then if that is the case, it brings up another question: why was Jesus baptised then? If our baptism was to bring us into that world of the Spirit, wasn’t Jesus always part of that world? Wasn’t Jesus, according to John, in the beginning with God and is God? As the Son of God, promised Messiah, the Immanuel God with us, why did Jesus need to properly fulfill all righteousness through this act of baptism?
Well, the way I’ve come to see it, he was baptized to be immersed with us. Jesus, God with us, was showing how he isn’t just with us physically but is fully one of us through baptizo. Jesus, the very Word of God, through all things were created and have their being, has shown us that he is very rightfully so our Saviour, our Redeemer, our brother through being completely and fully brought into this earth as a living breathing person, susceptible to emotion, pain, and even death. What an amazing act of grace this is. What an amazing act of humility, of service, of love.
Still, what does this have to do with Mariah Carey’s back-to-back New Year’s blunders? Well it seems like through those blunders she inadvertently shows us the contrast to the baptizo life, that in her inability to understand her fans, her need to continue in her diva attitude, her unquenchable thirst for hot tea, has shown us how she has been isolated in that celebrity and elite 0.01% world. But Jesus, himself being fully God but not seeing that as something to be exploited, came to us to be with us, as one of us, in order to love and save us.
Jesus came to us.
In a world where we are expected to bow to the powers that be, respect the authority of the strong, and heed to the beck and call of the elite to satisfy their petty demands, we have a Saviour that comes to us. In a dog-eat-dog world, keeping up with the Joneses and those who die with the most toys wins, we have a Messiah that becomes one of us. In a world so full of greed, jealousy, and pride, we have a God who is humbled as an infant child, subject to those same emotions and fears, able to feel pain and suffering, empathizing with all of us through our own ups and downs of life. This truly is God with us, as one of us, for all of us, declaring to all of us of how we too are God’s beloved children, with whom God is greatly pleased.
This year we read this story out of Mark’s gospel, which is slightly different from the other gospels that have this baptism account. While the others have this audible voice from heaven addressing the crowd, “this is my Son…”, in Mark we have a more direct and personal “you are my Son…”. And I love this. As in our baptisms it is declared to us exactly that. We. Are. Beloved.
In our shortcomings. In our diva attitudes. In our selfish and sinful ways. God loves, God forgives, God comes to us to invite, welcome, and accept.
In baptism, we are brought into God’s kingdom, we are clothed with Christ, and we are shown true love and peace. But there are times when we forget just who we are and whose we are. There are times we forget the gifts of grace and mercy. There are times we forget that we are fully immersed into the life and death and resurrection of Christ as Christ is fully immersed with us to know us, to empathize with us, and to ultimately love us. As we together bask in the light of God, the light that the darkness shall not overcome, let us remember the promise of baptism that God gives to Jesus and to all of us.
With us. One of us. For all of us. In this season after Epiphany and always let us remember God’s promises of grace and love, that we might know and grasp more fully our immersion into God’s kingdom and community. Thanks be to God. Amen.