Service for the Feast of the Baptism of Christ
[Keep a moment of silence, calling to mind that, though we are unable to gather together, we share fellowship as a Church family as we offer this short act of worship in our own homes]
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
“I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth” [Isaiah 49.6]
Eternal Father, who at the baptism of Jesus revealed Him to be your Son, anointing Him with the Holy Spirit: grant to us who are born again by water and the Spirit, that we may be faithful to our calling as your adoptive children; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God now and for ever. Amen.
Reading: Mark 1.4-11
A Reading from the Gospel of St. Mark.
John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, ‘The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.’ In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’
As we conclude the liturgical season of Christmas and begin Ordinary Time, we enter Epiphany and today we reflect on the Feast of the Baptism of Christ as told in the Gospel of St Mark. St Mark describes Jesus presenting himself to John the Baptist at the River Jordan, God’s proclamation to the world of Jesus’ divinity as His Son and the first revelation of all three Persons in the Holy Trinity. But ‘Why’, we ask, did Jesus need to be baptised?
Firstly, in accepting Baptism from John, Jesus affirmed all that John had said and done in ‘preparing the way’, baptising and preaching repentance of sins and proclaiming about the One who will baptise with the Holy Spirit. Jesus was sinless so He had no reason to repent and be baptised but he did need to identify with sinful humanity as its Saviour to fulfil that proclaimed by the Old Testament prophets. Our Lord’s coming formed a union between the prophets [such as Isaiah and of which John was the last] and His New Testament era of Grace, truth and forgiveness of sins.
In being baptised and entering the River Jordan Jesus poured forth His Grace fusing His ‘Divine Essence’ with the water thus inaugurating the purity of Baptism that begins our life of faith and transformation. So, Jesus’ Baptism was a prerequisite of the baptismal sacrament instituted through His Church and through which we are all adopted as children of God through His cleansing of our sins.
Most importantly though, Jesus’ Baptism was an epiphany, a sign from God, revealing Jesus as the Christ [“the anointed one”], the Spirit-endowed Servant. This manifestation of His sonship and divinity took place in a physical, audible and visible form so that all present knew that Jesus was the Son of the Father. This was God’s way of introducing ‘His Son’ to the world, clearly foretold in Isaiah, of the suffering servant, “Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased, upon whom I have put my spirit” (42:1), revealing Jesus’ mission to save mankind by His suffering and death.
So, in God’s time Jesus submitted Himself to His Father’s Will and out of love consented to His Baptism of death for the remission of our sins as God’s suffering servant. The Holy Spirit, as a dove, descended from Heaven ‘torn apart’ and bestowed Jesus with divine powers, completing God’s revelation of the Triune. This ends Jesus’ private life and creates the moment of His identification with mankind.
So, what can this mean for us today?
Jesus’ Baptism should remind us of our identity, who we are and whose we are, brothers and sisters in Him and the Holy Spirit, incorporated into His Church and heirs of Heaven. God is in us and we live as His children so our thoughts, words and deeds should always be about pleasing Him. We can do this through personal mission by leading a just life and growing daily in our relationship with God through prayer, reading His Word, observing His Sacraments of reconciliation and building up His Kingdom through our compassion, transparency, encouragement, justice and love.
Today is a perfect day to reflect on our own Baptismal vows and the gift of rebirth. To be the salt of the earth and to be a symbol of the light of the world by helping others to see that God loves everyone. Like Jesus, all that we undertake must flow from who we are - God’s beloved. We are renewed in Jesus and are called to follow in His footsteps, meaning we too must humbly submit ourselves to God's plan for our lives. In turn He anoints us with the Holy Spirit that we may be fortified with His power and grace. Through Jesus all things are possible and are renewed. As 2021 begins if we believe and ask, Jesus will walk with us and help us to let go of our troubles, struggles and fears. Each day, if we trust in Him, Jesus will supply wisdom and strength.
God of love, on this first Sunday of Epiphany we give thanks for our clergy and all your baptised and faithful people and rejoice in your presence and power? Please bless all who are being prepared for baptism and ordination. We pray for all who seek to know you.
Lord, hear us...
We pray for our Church and all who seek to bring peace and lead your mission to the world and gather in your kingdom of love, justice and righteousness. Mighty God, guide the leaders of the nations as they continue to respond to the global pandemic; we pray especially for peace in the United States of America, in the Holy Land and throughout the Middle East.
Lord, hear us...
Merciful Father, we pray for all those who are struggling with work and family during this pandemic crisis and especially for those who face losing their homes and businesses. We ask your blessing on our parents and Godparents and upon our children and Godchildren. We pray for all who influence our lives by their leading, teaching or by their good example.
Lord, hear us...
Prince of peace, we pray for all who are burdened with guilt or anger and for all who have memories that disturb them. We pray for all who have been taken into care this week and we remember all who ill at home or in hospital, especially any who feel lonely or unwanted. Have mercy on all who are homeless.
Lord, hear us...
Lord, by your healing power give to all who are ill in mind, body or spirit your gift of wholeness. We remember those who are in our thoughts at this time.
Lord, hear us...
Father, we bring before you those you have called into your eternal presence, remembering all our departed loved ones and friends We remember, that from the beginning the Good News of Jesus was not just for a few but for all. You have made your light shine in our hearts. Help us to show our gratitude by walking in the path it illuminates and shedding that light on those around us, to the glory of your name.
Lord, hear us
Our Lord, we joy in you, without your help we could not face, unafraid the year before us. Amen.
Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.
Prayer for those who are unable to receive the Sacrament of Holy Communion
Thanks be to you, Lord Jesus Christ, for all the benefits you have given me, for your holy birth, for all the pains and insults you have borne for me. Since I cannot now receive you sacramentally, I ask you to come spiritually into my heart. O most merciful redeemer, friend and brother, may I know you more clearly, love you more dearly, and follow you more nearly, day by day. Amen.
[after the Prayer of St Richard of Chichester]
[Keep a moment of silence for spiritual communion with the Lord and with our brothers and sisters]
Come, Holy Ghost, our souls inspire, and lighten with celestial fire;
thou the anointing Spirit art, who dost thy sev’n fold gifts impart.
Show us the Father and the Son, in thee and with thee, ever one.
Then through the ages all along, this shall be our unending song.
Words: Based on Veni, Creator Spiritus. John Cosin (1594-1672)
Lord of all time and eternity, you opened the heavens and revealed yourself as Father in the Baptism of Jesus your beloved Son: By the power of your Spirit complete the heavenly work of our rebirth through the waters of the new creation; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Bible Readings: New Revised Standard Version  Word of the Lord: Church in Wales - Intercessions: Prayers for Intercessions [adapted] David Adam, 2007 - CCL Parish Copyright Licence: 753662