Baptism of Jesus

January 7, 2024

Lectionary Texts

Genesis 1.1-5 God’s Spirit broods over the waters of Creation and God brings forth light.

Psalm 29 God’s voice thunders over the waters of Creation, the voice that creates everything, changes everything, and evokes praise from everything.

Acts 19. 1-7 Paul in Ephesus. John’s baptism, a ritual of repentance, is not baptism in the name of Jesus, which promises the presence of the Holy Spirit.

Mark 1.4-11
Jesus’ baptism.

Preaching Thoughts

       As we both celebrate Jesus’ baptism and look to a new year, this is a good day for baptismal renewal. Here is a more thorough reflection on Baptism, and here is a baptismal liturgy.
       The waters of baptism are the primordial waters where God creates. In Confirmation classes I would tell kids to think of everything they know about water, what it does, and how we experience it, and how it shows up in the Bible. They’d list a few: Jesus washed the disciples’ feet; crossing the Red Sea; Noah’s flood… Water exists in different forms; we need water to live; water washes things; it rains. When they’d run out of ideas I’d announce that every single thing we know about water can be a lesson about baptism. Baptism symbolizes how God gives us life and washes us clean and sets us free, how grace just rains down on us, how God we encounter God in different forms, how we’re called to serve, washing others’ feet … I’d repeat that everything about water can tell us something about baptism. Every single thing. That would spur them on to play one of my favorite games, Stump The Pastor: think of something about water that has nothing to say about baptism. They’d hit on erosion! (Yes, I’d say, grace strips some stuff away from us)… “Drowning!” (Yes, we die and are born again. In the early church you descended into a tomb-shaped pool, were pronounced dead, then rose up out of the water as a new person with a new name! And speaking of being born again, baptismal water is God’s water breaking.)… “Tears.” Yes, God shares our pain. The junior high boys would get more adventuresome. “Sweat!” Yes, Baptism promises the Holy Spirit will be in you to do the hard work of loving your neighbor as yourself and loving God with all your heart, mind, soul and muscles. Finally they would get to the good stuff. “Pee!” they would announce triumphantly. Yes, I’d say, aren’t you glad you can? Isn’t it cool God made us so we can absorb the good stuff from life and flush the rest? That’s how grace works. Play with the imagery. Water can tell us many, many things about baptism.
       Baptism isn’t a badge of honor for Christians, or a membership token. It’s an experience of transformation, of death and re-birth, re-creation. It’s not a profession of faith; that would be more like John’s baptism, a gesture of repentance. It’s not anything we do, it’s something we receive from God. It’s a symbol of how we drown in God’s grace, and lose our old self-enclosed selves, and then God’s water breaks and God births us to a new life. Our little individual self-enclosed “self” dies; and we are reborn as a part of the Body of Christ. This is a never-ending process, so it’s good to remember our baptism, and to renew our baptismal vows regularly.

       At Jesus’ baptism the “heavens are torn open.” Like the curtain in the temple being torn in two at his crucifixion, the moment speaks of the destruction of the boundary between the daily and the divine. Baptism suggests that the realm of God is right here in this person being baptized. The descent of the Holy Spirit reinforces that. God is present in this person.
      Most Christians need to refine their theology of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is not a bird or ghost that comes and goes. It’s God. It’s always here. And it’s not confined to Christians. It’s in everybody. Despite the way it’s worded in Acts— “the Holy Spirit came upon them”—you don’t “get” the Holy Spirit at baptism. It’s always there. Baptism is a symbol, a representation, of the Spirit that is always there. What changes is that we accept it, we receive it. Baptism is an invitation to allow the Spirit to guide us, to control our lives.
      Jesus hears the promise of God’s love and blessing. “You are my son, my Beloved” quotes Psalm 2, referring to the Messiah. “With whom I am well pleased” quotes Isaiah 42, referring to God’s suffering servant. Until Jesus’ followers thought about it no one had ever imagined that one person might fulfill both roles of suffering and Messiah; but they realized Jesus was a suffering Messiah! The blessing is not only a “naming” of Jesus. It’s also a claiming. God is saying, “You are mine. No matter what.” My children are mine and always will be no matter what evil they suffer or evil they do. Just so, we are God’s beloved, God’s children, no matter what evil we may suffer or what evil we may do. Baptism announces God’s blessing for us, and God’s claim on us. We all need to hear these words often. Baptismal renewal is a way to accomplish that.

Call to Worship

Leader: As your rivers, O God, flow around us,
All: we come to be washed by your grace.
Your voice calls us to the water,
and we
immerse ourselves in your love.
Your Word descends upon us,
and you kindle in us the fire of your Spirit.
You speak to us: You are my Beloved, my own,
and I am so delighted in you.”
By your grace we receive your blessing,
we accept your claim upon us,
and we worship you with awe and gratitude. Alleluia!.

Leader: Light of the world, you have come to us in human form.
All: We rejoice in gratitude.
Light of Bethlehem’s star, you led magi to the holy child.
We worship in awe.
God of light, you baptized Jesus in your love.
We immerse ourselves in your grace. Alleluia!

Leader: Leader: Creator God, the river of your grace flows about us.
All: We enter into its flow, deep in wonder, swimming in your grace.
Rabbi Jesus, you were baptized by John in the Jordan.
We come with you to be washed in the grace of God,
to be immersed in the glory of the Beloved.
Holy Spirit, you came to Jesus at his baptism like a dove.
Come to us, and fill us with the joy of your presence,
the song of your power, the feathers of delight.
Give us wings to do your will, and to be your people.
Alleluia! Come, Spirit of Life, and transform us by your grace. Alleluia!

Creator God, when Jesus was baptized he descended into the water:
the waters of Creation, the Red Sea of liberation, the healing flow of your grace.
We immerse ourselves in your creative Spirit, in your Word, in your Presence.
Risen Christ, at the Jordan River God proclaimed you God’s Beloved.
We sink into your love. We soak up your grace. We are held in your hands.
Holy Spirit, at Jesus’ baptism you descended as a dove.
Fill us: be our life and strength, our purpose and confidence.
Baptize us in your light, O God, and make us new in the womb of your grace.
Alleluia! Come, Creator, Christ and Holy Spirit, and transform us by your grace. Alleluia!

Leader: Creator God, giver of life and light, we praise you.
All: As you spoke to Jesus at his baptism, speak to us now
with your Word, your command, your delight.
Beloved Christ, you call us to share in the baptism of your death and resurrection.
In your baptism you draw all believers to you.
Draw us to you now, and make us one with you.
Holy Spirit, you who brooded over the waters of Creation, create us anew.
Pour out your power upon us, fill us with your delight,
and transform us according to your grace. Amen.

Leader: Eternal God, giver of life, you are our Creator; we are your creatures.
All: We come from you. We belong to you. We bear your image. Alleluia!
Loving Christ, sharer of life, you are our companion; we are your lovers.
You accompany us. You heal and forgive us. You lead us. Alleluia!
Holy Spirit, power of life, you are our breath; we are your vessels.
Alleluia! Come, Holy Spirit, sweep us way in your love, drown us in your grace,
and birth us anew in the waters of your womb.
Spirit of death and resurrection, baptize us in your life-giving grace. Alleluia!

Collect / Prayer of the Day

Gracious God, deep river of blessing, as Jesus went into the waters of the Jordan, we come now to be immersed in your Word. Speak your Good News to us, and transform our hearts, that we may live new lives for your sake and the sake of your Gospel. Amen.

God of love, in the birth of Jesus you poured yourself out into the world. In his baptism you poured out your Spirit upon him. In our worship now pour out yourself into us, that in love we may pour ourselves into the world in love, in the name and Spirit of Christ. Amen.

Gracious God, at Jesus’ baptism you spoke blessing. As your Spirit hovers over the waters of our re-creation, speak your Word to us, that we may be born again of your grace, shaped by your love, and sent to serve in the gracious power of your Spirit and the name of Jesus, our brother, our teacher, our healer. Amen.

Eternal and loving God, as you claimed Jesus as your beloved at his baptism, and called him into ministry, so claim and call us now. Grant that all who are baptized in his name may keep the covenant they have made and boldly proclaim his love. Strengthen your holy church in our common baptismal life, and fill us with your light. Bless us, in the reading of your scriptures and the proclaiming of your good news, that we may hear your Word to us. Amen.

Gracious God, at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan you proclaimed him your beloved Son and anointed him with the Holy Spirit. With him, we are your children, with whom you are well pleased. Grant us grace to receive your blessing. Journey with us in life in the presence of Christ, and lead us by the power of your Holy Spirit to live lives that glorify you. Amen.

Gracious God, Breath of life, you enter us and give us life; you strengthen us and empower us to speak your Word and sing your glory. Enter us now, breath of God, and renew us. You are the spring of eternal life welling up within us. Flow in us, and change us. Wash us clean, fill us with your grace, and carry us into the world to serve you in the name and the Spirit of Christ. Speak to us, God; bless us, renew us, and make us yours. Amen.

Listening Prayer

(suitable as a Collect, preparation for hearing scriptures, or invitation to prayer)
We come to the river of your presence.
We sink deep in the water of your love.
In the silence, your grace holds us.
In the mystery, your love washes us.
In the water of your womb we are birthed anew.
Give us life, O God, give us life.

Prayer of Confession

Eternal God,
you have created us in your image, but like stones in a muddy stream
we are covered with the leavings of what we have done
and what others have done to us.
Wash us clean in your grace, forgive our sin, heal our hearts,
and restore in us the image of your glory,
in the name and the Spirit of your Son, Jesus,
the revealer of our salvation. Amen.

God of love, we confess
we are dominated by our little self-enclosed “selves,”
separate from you and from others.
In the deep water of your grace
let that little, flesh-bound self drown,
and birth us from the waters of your womb
as members of the Body of Christ,
one with you and with our neighbors.
Forgive us, wash us clean, and birth us anew
in the baptism of your Spirit. Amen.

Response / Creed / Affirmation

Pastor: Beloved of God, your baptism promises
that God shall rain blessings upon you.
All: With God’s help, we devote ourselves
to receive God’s grace in all things.
Beloved of God, your baptism promises that Christ shall be your companion.
With God’s help, we devote ourselves
to follow Christ in life, in death, and in resurrection.

Beloved of God, your baptism promises that the Holy Spirit works within you.
With God’s help, we devote ourselves
to proclaim the Gospel in word and deed,
to live lives of compassion and forgiveness
to resist evil, injustice and oppression,
and to pursue mercy and justice in the name of Christ. Amen.

Eucharistic Prayer

[After the introduction, the body of the prayer may be read responsively with the presiding leader(s) and congregation, or by the leader(s) alone.]

God is with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them up to God.
Let us give thanks to the Holy One, our God.
It is good and beautiful to give God our praise.

We give you thanks, God, for in the beginning
your Spirit brooded over the waters and you brought forth light.
Through the waters of the Red Sea you brought your children to freedom.

By the baptism of water and the word you created your church.
All the rivers of the world praise you, and the oceans sing your glory.
Your grace rains down on us and brings forth life.
Therefore with all Creation we sing your praise:

            [Sanctus, spoken or sung:]
        Holy, holy, holy One, God of power and might,
        heaven and earth are full of your glory.
        Hosanna in the highest.
        Blessed is the one who comes in the name of God.
        Hosanna in the highest.
               [or alternate version]

Blessed are all who come in your name,
and blessed is Jesus, your Christ,
baptized in the river Jordan,
immersed in your grace, afloat on your love.
He washes our feet; he dries our tears;
he gives us living water when we thirst for life.
His grace washes us clean, and births us anew.
In his love we hear your blessing to us:
“You are my Beloved, my own,
with whom I am delighted.”
Baptized into his death, we are raised with him to new life.

     (The Blessing and Covenant)
As long as we break this bread and share this cup
we remember his death and resurrection, until he comes again.
Therefore, remembering these your mighty acts in Jesus Christ,
we offer ourselves as a living and holy sacrifice,
in union with Christ’s offering for us,
as we proclaim the mystery of our faith:

             [Memorial Acclamation, spoken or sung:]
        Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.
        Dying, Christ destroyed our death. Rising, Christ restores our life.
        Christ will come again in glory.
             [or alternative]

Pour out your Holy Spirit on these gifts of bread and cup,
that they may be for us the body and blood of Christ.
As you poured out your Spirit on Jesus at the river,
pour out your Spirit on us,
that we may be for the world the Body of Christ,
one with Christ in death and resurrection,
one in the Spirit, one in the Body of Christ,
moved and empowered by your Spirit
to bear your love into this world,
in the name of Christ.

     [Spoken or sung]

* The Blessing and Covenant
[I usually don’t print the words. I want people to be looking at the bread, not their bulletins.]

On the night in which he gave himself for us
Jesus took bread, blessed it,. broke it, and gave it to his disciples,saying,
“Take and eat; this is my body.”
In the same way, after the supper he took the cup,
blessed it with thanks and gave it to them, saying,
“Drink of this, all of you. This is my blood,
poured out for you and for many, in a new Covenant,
which is the forgiveness of sin.”
As long as we break this bread and share this cup
we remember his death and resurrection, until he comes again.

Prayer of Dedication / Sending / after Communion

[Adapt as needed.]
Gracious God, we thank you for (the mystery that you give yourself to us / this mystery in which you have given yourself to us.) Our little self-enclosed selves have drowned in your love, and you have raised us up as members of the Body of Christ. May your eternal life flow through us with the power of your Spirit, by the grace of Christ, to your glory. Amen.

Suggested Songs

(Click on titles to view, and hear an audio clip, on the Music page)

Light for the World      (An Epiphany “Theme Song”)
A dialogue between cantor and congregation. May be used throughout the Epiphany season. one or two verses per week. The cantor’s words reflect lectionary texts; the congregation’s refrain is the same throughout.

Lyrics for Baptism of Jesus:

Congregation, Refrain:
Love, may we live by your light.
Let us be light for the world.

Cantor, Verses:
3. “You are my servant in whom I delight, a light unto the nations.”
Shine for the ones who dwell in the dark, with comfort and justice.

4. God said, “Let light shine out of the dark,” and shines with that glory in Jesus.And when we turn our faces to Christ, God shines in our own heart.

See all songs with Baptism tag, especially these:

God, We Rise to Serve You       
           (Tune: Sing We Now of Christmas / Now the Green Blade Rises]

God, we rise to serve you, baptized in your love
as your Holy Spirit hovers like a dove.
We, your Beloved, whom you bless with grace,
offer you our gifts with love and joy and peace.

God, your Spirit in us, dove with wings unfurled,
gives us pow’r to bring forth justice to the world.
Baptized in Christ, we serve with mercy’s grace,
bringing to the world your love and joy and peace.

Immersed in Blessing       (Tune: Joyful, Joyful)

Baptized in your grace with Jesus, loving God, we sing your praise.
Echoing your own delight, with joy and thanks our song we raise.
Your beloved children, birthed anew and rising from your womb,
God, we bear your love through all our living, and beyond the tomb.

God you heal, forgive and nourish, and revive us breath by breath;
you restore our broken trust and save us from our fear of death.
Like a dry and withered plant revived by water at its root,
we are saved by streams of grace, for flourishing and bearing fruit.

Bathed in grace, immersed in blessing, joined with your Beloved Son,
how can we not love each other?— for your Spirit makes us One.
Carried on a stream of mercy, springs beneath and rain above,
may we flow with peace and in your Spirit flood the world with love.

Spirit Feast (Tune: Cradle Song)

With hearts that are baptized in mercy and grace,
we enter the mystery of this time and place
to feast on your mercy in light from above,
receiving your Spirit, made one in your love.

The cup that we drink from flows deep with your love,
the water of blessing, descent of the dove.
“My Chosen, Beloved, in whim I am pleased,”
we’re sent by your Spirit to shine with your light.

With blest, grateful hearts, God, we come to this feast,
and pray that your Spirit in us be released.
This sharing, this joy and this justice you share
is ours now to bring to the word everywhere.

We Are Your Body      (Tune: Be Thou My Vision)

God of all holiness, baptized in you,
we are your Body: your presence shines through.
We, poor in spirit, are blessed with your own.
May our lives shine forth with your grace alone.

We who with Jesus do mourn with the world
shall see your banners of deep joy unfurled.
We who are hungry for love freely shared
feast at the banquet that you have prepared.

May we be merciful and pure in heart,
your gentle peacemakers, doing our part.
Dying and rising, we fear no great loss,
sealed with your Spirit and marked with your cross.

When Jesus Was Baptized (Tune: Cradle Song)

When Jesus was baptized, John said to repent,
and follow the Righteous One whom God had sent.
So wash us, dear God, and create us anew,
born fresh from your grace, living wholly in you.

When Jesus was baptized in waters that flow,
he sank in the Source of what makes all things grow.
So, held in Creation, renewed and made one,
we swim in the grace of your life-giving Son.

When Jesus was baptized in light, like a dove
your Spirit came down and you filled him with love.
So give us your Spirit: let all that we do
be you living in us, as we live in you.

When Jesus was baptized you spoke from above,
saying “This is my servant, my son, whom I love.”
So help us to hear you speak love when you call,
and as your Beloved, share freely with all.

You Are My Delight (Tune: Londonderry Air, “Oh, Danny Boy”)

We come with you, dear Jesus, through the desert hills,
down to the river, flowing gently by,
where through the rocks and valleys, deepening, it spills,
and flows into the sea, the earth, the sky.
    As we sink down and rise up from the water
    a dove descends, a voice speaks, clear and bright:
    “Know you are my beloved son, my daughter,
    my spirit is in you and you are my delight.

We go our way, and in our daily living
we follow you, and scatter rays of love
in deeds of caring, healing grace and giving,
for still we hear that voice and see the dove:
    “No river can undo you, for with you I go.
    I give my heart to you, and give you light.
    For you are mine, I hold you and I love you so.
   All water says, ‘Remember you are my delight.’”

                       (Can be found in Offering Songs)

(Tune: Fairest Lord Jesus)

Blessed by your Spirit, God, and immersed in deepest grace,
baptized in love, in love we live.
In us your mercy grows; love like a river flows;
and so our finest gifts we give.


Baptized in love, O God, washed, renewed and risen, new,
in your Spirit we are one.
Yours are the gifts we give; yours are the lives we live,
bright shining as the morning sun.

             (Tune: Old 100th,
or Gift of Love (“The Water Is Wide), or
               or Tallis’ Canon

To You, O God, our praise we give,
For baptized into Christ, we live.
Thus may your Holy Spirit be
Our life and breath eternally! Amen.

               (Tune: Morning Has Broken)

Baptized, anointed, filled with your Spirit,
we are appointed bearers of light:
for liberation, servants of justice,
bringing the nations joy and delight.

Gladly we praise you, God our Creator,
joyfully raise our hearts up in prayer.
Humbly we give you thanks, Holy Spirit,
help us to live your Word everywhere.


Great holy giver of life and wonder,
deep like a river your blessings flow.
Gladly we give you praise and thanksgiving:
gifts we will give wherever we go.


Washed in your waters, baptized with Jesus,
your sons and daughters, risen anew,
each day we live we freely surrender,
our lives we give, God, gladly to you.

                (Tune: Be Thou My Vision)

God, we are raised to new life with your Son,
filled with your Spirit and baptized as one.
Branches of one vine, your fruits we will bear,
going to all the world, your great love to share.

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