With today’s celebration of the Baptism of the Lord Holy Mother Church closes the Christmas Season. We now return to Ordinary Time; White and Gold gives way to Green. We now transition from the celebration of light entering the world; to Christ’s journey from the River to the Cross. I have heard many variations of the comment ‘Wow what a jump – he was baby last weekend and he is an adult today. Why would this Feast be part of the Christmas season?’ The short answer I usually hear is ‘We only have a year to go through His life.’ But, if we look closely at this feast we find that it very much part of the Christmas Season.
The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, though only recently (1955) made its own feast; was originally part of the oldest celebration of the church, next to Easter, Epiphany, which we celebrated last week. The Epiphanies celebrated in the early centuries, and still celebrated in the Liturgy of the Hours are: The Magi, The Wedding Feast of Cana and the Lord’s Baptism; events of revelation to mankind of God’s presence among us. Indeed the whole Christmas season is a celebration of God revealing Himself to us. Christmas is the celebration of the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; Upon those who lived in a land of gloom a light has shone.” (Isaiah 9:1).
We start with, of course, Christmas; when God was revealed to mankind as His birth heralded the awareness of mankind to this gift. The Angel proclaimed to Jewish shepherds: “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11). God revealed Himself to His chosen people when the Shepherds left their flocks to behold the Shepherd of mankind in the manger.
Last weekend, the Solemnity of the Epiphany we primarily hear about God’s revelation to the Gentiles. Magi from a foreign country were led by God through the science of the day, to His son – as the Magi looked on the child the rest of the world is made aware of this gift of a savior. But as I mentioned earlier, in its fullness the Solemnity of the Epiphany is celebrating all of God’s revealing moments.
Today, we jump about thirty years to God’s powerful revelation to the world of His triune nature. We watch and listen with those who were there as: “heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven,’ You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.’” (Luke 3:21-22)
With this epiphany, this powerful manifestation of God’s power; also comes the realization that our world has changed, we no longer are bound to our sinful nature – we are freed by God. Mankind, who from the time of Adam has been shut out, now has been shown that the door has been opened again. Our Holy Father speaks of this: “The opening of heaven is a sign that this descent into our night is the dawning of a new day, that the barrier between God and man is being broken down by this identification of the Son with us: God is no longer inaccessible…”
With this event Christ’s public ministry starts, His long and winding climb from the River to the Cross begins with this Baptism. The next three years are God’s revelation of what we mean to Him and just what He will do to save us from ourselves. He shows us what true love can accomplish as He climbs to Jerusalem and onto the Cross. He teaches us how we should treat each other and act towards creation. The light that is God, that broke through during the Christmas events; is now growing in the sky. With Christ’s public proclamation of God’s plan we are able to see more clearly. See our shortcomings; how left to ourselves we wallow in our own view of mankind. And with His light we see in bright contrast what God’s vision of mankind is; what being human is truly meant to be.
Our challenge, as disciples, is to allow this light to change us, to absorb this light and grow. As with anything living, light is a necessity, but so is nourishment. We need to nourish ourselves with understanding Jesus better by listening to Him – reading the Bible and coming to Mass. We need to study and reflect all that He gives us through Holy Mother Church and her great spiritual men and women. We need to take into our hearts all that we encounter from Him and through Him; as His mother did throughout her life on earth. We need to heal ourselves when we are malnourished by putting ourselves before God through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In short; we need to grow in the Lord’s love.
So for those who ask the question, why is the Baptism of the Lord a Christmas Feast?
Christ has risen from the waters and God has announced to us that we should take note. Christ has come down among us from on high and now starts to climb from our fallen nature, and God tells us to walk with him towards our destiny. God takes our hand and helps us up the path to eternal happiness.
Today, our gift has been opened!
 On The Way To Jesus Christ pp.84-85 – Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger