We celebrate the feast of the baptism of the Lord.
First things first.
Let's us look at the Jordan river.
When i think of the jordan river i often imagine it to be this majestic fast flowing river that rushes along the Jordan valley. After all, if Jesus is going to use it to begin his public ministry, one would think, at leads I think, that it should be awe inspiring and captivating.
However, after some research in anticipation of my try to the Holy Land this Summer, I have come to be disappointed. The Jordan river is not much of a river. It is actually more like a stream, even a creek.
In fact the Jordan is often looked down upon and easily overlooked.
In the Old Testament, Naaman the Leper cursed the Jordan and arrogantly protested when Elisha invited him to bathe in it to be cleansed of his leprosy. He thought it was beneath him to enter such a tiny stream when there were much greater rivers where he came from.
The simply and unmajestic reality of the Jordan is important. It reminds us that God doesn't only use majestic and awe inspiring realities to make himself known. Rather, he will use ordinary, over looked realities to bring forth to us an encounter that leads us to him, as he uses the Jordan.
We need not only look for God in "magical" places or mystical regions but we should look for him in the ordinary realities.
Secondly, this stream has an important role to play in salvation history.
The Jordan is the eastern boundary of the promised land. It is here that Joshua brought the Israelites from the desert into this gift of Land God had promised. Joshua steps across the stream onto the other side bringing to fulfillment that long awaited promise spoken to Abraham, nearly 500 years after it was promised.
Today's feast we have Jesus, whose hebrew name is 'joshua', leading all of humanity into the gate way of the new promise land. As he enters the Jordan and rise he makes ready the gateway that leads us to salvation, the waters of baptism.
On the banks of the River, Jesus identifies himself completely with sinful humanity that we might find our true identity in him.
At Christmas we celebrate God becoming man; but we remember that the humanity Jesus claims is that which is untainted and unsoiled. He claims humanity that is equivalent to that which Adam had before the fall.
His humanity does not know the effects of original sin. On the banks of the Jordan, Jesus blends in with the grey mass of sinners, those whose lives were filled with lust and greed and disappointment. He who knew no sin now aligns himself with sinners, making them his own.
Thus into the water he takes our sinfulness upon himself so that we might now recognize in him that place of true belonging. For through his death and resurrection he now claim us for God.
When e hear those words spoken over Jesus, "this is my beloved son, in whom i am well pleased" we pause to realize these same words are spoken over us at our baptism. In christ we now share the Father's favor and pleasure.
The gate has been shown to us; the gate has been open to us; through the waters of baptism we now experience our true identity as sons of God in Christ.
This all begins not the banks of this unforgettable stream called the Jordan.