At the beginning of his public ministry, Jesus presents himself to John to be baptized in the Jordan. The heavens open, the Holy Spirit descends as a dove and we hear the voice of God: “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased” (see Psalm 2:7).
At this festival of the Christian year, we not only remember Jesus’ baptism, but we celebrate our own: the baptism we share with Christ. Accordingly, this Sunday is an appropriate time to celebrate the sacrament of baptism or the reaffirmation of the baptismal covenant. It also foreshadows the season of Lent, as Jesus was immediately driven into the wilderness for 40 days after his own Baptism.
God’s rule inaugurated
An excerpt from the Companion to the Book of Common Worship (Geneva Press, 2003, 148)
The Baptism of the Lord is closely related to Epiphany and should be considered in relation to that feast. Jesus’ ministry to bring in God’s rule was inaugurated in his baptism. As he came out of the water, the Spirit rested on Jesus and a sign of God’s approval was heard. On this day, we celebrate not only Jesus’ baptism but our own as well, for our baptism is rooted in Christ. Baptism joins us to Christ and his church, and with all of the baptized we are called to share in Jesus’ ministry. In the waters of baptism we are buried with Christ, cleansed of our sins, and raised to share in his resurrection. The Spirit is given to us and we are declared the children of God.
Lectionary readings for Baptism of the Lord
Read the Revised Common Lectionary Scripture lessons for the Baptism of the Lord:
Resources for Baptism of the Lord
Baptism of the Lord service
A service for Baptism of the Lord Sunday with a renewal of baptismal vows and holy communion.
Prayers for Baptism of the Lord
These prayers might be used in a variety of settings: Opening Prayers (at the beginning of worship) or concluding collects (after the Prayers of the People); for church websites or newsletters; or in personal, small group or family devotion.
Baptism and Transfiguration Handout
The Revised Common Lectionary readings for Baptism of the Lord and Transfiguration of the Lord bracket the time after Epiphany with God’s words of favor to Jesus: “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” Download a chart that demonstrates the parallels among the gospel lessons for these days, a helpful resource for teaching and preaching.