By Scott Baker
On Jan. 10 as the church gathered (virtually online) we heard once again the gospel account of the baptism of Jesus of Nazareth in the Jordan river by his cousin John the baptizer. We hear this lesson every year on the Sunday following the feast of the Epiphany on Jan. 6.
Liturgically speaking, it is a nodal moment in the calendar. It marks the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry and culminates in Holy Week, Good Friday and Easter Day. Between now and then, Christians will walk with Jesus as he carries out his mission. We will see the dead raised and the waters calmed. We will see the demons driven back to the abyss and the blind given their sight. We will hear awesome and inspiring words of how to live in harmony with God and with each other that challenge us to live with more integrity and walk closer, more humbly with our God and our neighbor. We will see him on the mountaintop transfigured in brilliant white. And finally run to the empty tomb only to find a discarded burial shroud. However, it all begins on the Sunday following the Epiphany with his baptism.
It seems fitting that we always hear this story of beginning as we commence our new year. This year, perhaps above many years in recent memory, we could use a new beginning. After the year we had in 2020 and all we had to cope with, we could use a new start to our lives. With the promise and hope of a vaccine coming soon, we can look forward to getting on with our lives in a way we couldn’t even imagine just a scant six months ago. It is an opportunity for us to do things differently. We can nurture the relationships that have been impacted over the last year. We can appreciate human touch and closeness in a way we couldn’t even begin to imagine in the autumn when the vaccine was a distant hope. We have the opportunity to intentionally and mindfully start anew with different ways of approaching life with a whole new attitude to our world. In 2021 we are afforded the experience of living through a pandemic and going into this year completely differently than we’ve ever begun a new year before.
What this year holds in store is still anyone’s guess. However, I wish to err on the side of optimism and see that our lives can not only be restored to a sense of normality, but even better, deeper, more spiritual and more profound than anything we’ve known in recent times. What we may find is that it is a year of resurrection of a sort; a restoration of new life and new possibilities. As one of my favorite song lyrics states, “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”
We all have the blessing of a new beginning. We have been given the grace, the gift, the awesome possibility to begin again. God invites us to follow him in his mission of love. All we have to do is take that first step forward and walk into a future of boundless possibilities. Remember, the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.
FATHER SCOTT BAKER is the pastor of Emmanuel Episcopal Church. Contact him at 757-562-4542.