Power to Become Children of God
A Homily for the Sunday after Christmas
I remember the Baptisms of my children very well. Hannah slept through the entire experience. John, on the other hand, screamed what the English would call "bloody murder" through the entire experience. The priest smiled and said, "That's the Devil coming out!" Each child, as parents can tell you, is different.
Each child is unique, in nature and nurture, in creed and in deed. Yet the church teaches us that each of us is a child of God and made imago Dei, in the image of God. Although they were cousins, Jesus Christ and John the Baptist were very different children of God. John was the one who was called and sent to be the last prophet of the Old Covenant and the first of the New, making way for Jesus. John was not the light of the world, but he testified, our Gospel account today tells us twice, to Jesus, "the true light, which enlightens everyone, (who) was coming into the world" (John 1:9). Testimony is about telling the truth, and this enlightened child who was coming was the new Truth about God.
Jesus, the true light of the world whose birth we celebrated once again this weekend, was more than just the truth told about God. Jesus, unlike John, was also a new Way to God. And Jesus was also to become the new Life all of us can have in God. When we believe in him, our Gospel also tells us, Jesus gives us power. Not power to lord it over others. Not the kind of power that siblings so often try to exercise over one another. Not power that puts others down.
No, Jesus came into the world, we hear in this beautiful prologue to John's Gospel, to empower, to give us his kind of power. " . . . to all who received him, (to all) who believed in his name, he gave power . . . " (1:12). Not power to become powerful; power "to become children of God"! Power, in the same mysterious and paradoxical kind of way that was characteristic of the child of God named Jesus, power to become who we already are. Why do we baptize infants? One reason is that we want them to become, more completely and more deeply, who they already are: God's beloved children, each one made in the image of God.
Today we are here to baptize Caroline Irene, asking God give her the power of Jesus in what will be her new life in Christ. Caroline is especially close to God's heart (1:18) today, as if she were God's only child (1:14). In God's eyes, she is as special as John and Jesus and even her sister! Today Caroline reminds us of how special it is to be empowered, to be a beloved child of God.