Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the 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 Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’
The river Jordan was an ancient boundary. Between home and the wide world. Between the Holy Land and the wild and lonely country beyond. For the Exodus people of old, as they journeyed in from the wilderness, the Jordan had been a threshold, leading them from desert to promise. As they crossed the river, a new world was opening before them.
For Jesus too, baptism in the Jordan was a threshold. It took him from home in Nazareth to life on the wide open road. It sealed his relationship with heaven, with a word of assurance and approval. And it sent him, to use that relationship for others, to reach out in service, to share the Spirit’s power, and to bring new wholeness and hope to many. As he came out of the water, a new calling was opening before him.
And for us, at the start of a new year? Is this a threshold? A new world? A new calling? Might this baptism, this Jordan, this place of new beginning, speak of a new phase in our living?
Jesus prayed, and the voice from heaven spoke. And God’s word, given to us in Jesus, remains a word of acceptance and strength.
Jesus prayed, and the Holy Spirit came. And the Spirit, given so intimately to Jesus, is still alive and at large.
So by the Spirit we pray. When God says, ‘Beloved child,’ we respond in love and trust. When God invites, we step forward. When God empowers, we go ahead in confidence. When God touches our living, we reach out in service to others. May that be our experience, at the threshold of this new year.
God of promise and presence, in whom the world is ever alive with newness and possibility, we offer you the days and duties of this year, our expectations and imaginings, our hopes and our openness. Surprise us, we ask, with blessings we had not looked for, opportunities to serve we had not expected, and grace and goodness beyond our deserving, by your Spirit, in the name of Jesus. Amen.
The Rev’d John Proctor, General Secretary of the URC, member at Downing Place URC, Cambridge