Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?" But Jesus answered him, "Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness." Then he consented. And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased."
With Christmas just barely over we now come to Jesus as a fully grown adult - walking, and talking, and asking his cousin John to baptize him. John hesitates, then consents, and when the baptism is complete, the heavens part and we hear the voice of God saying "This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased." The Gospel of Matthew spends only five short verses telling us this story.
When it comes to the actual baptism itself - no details are given. We don't know how much water was used, how long Jesus was immersed underwater, what liturgy John spoke over him. Many of the myriads of Christian traditions that exist today came about because of some disagreement or other over baptism and how it should be done, and so a new denomination was formed here and another there and so on and so forth. As followers of Christ, we so often allow ourselves to get bogged down in the details that Christ himself didn't seem to deem very important. If exactly how we perform the sacrament of baptism was so important don't you think Christ would have told us exactly how to do it?
When it comes to baptism, what is important is what it symbolizes. As Wesley once said, it is an outward sign of an inward grace. Though human hands might sprinkle water on your forehead or dunk you in a body of water or say the words, it is not humanity at work in baptism, but God. Baptism is a sign of God's claim on us, of our claim on the community of believers, and a marker of our identity. Even if you were an infant when you were baptized and therefore don't literally remember it (like myself) it is something you can claim and remember still.
I have a pastor friend who says she likes to remember her baptism any time she encounters water - when washing dishes, taking a shower, walking in the rain. I think this is a beautiful idea - to remember who and whose we are every time we encounter water in our lives. If you start to do so, you will notice not just how often you encounter water throughout your everyday life, but, perhaps, how often you encounter the presence of God in your everyday life. May you remember your baptism, and be thankful.
God of Grace and Water, help us to keep our eyes open to your presence with us and your claim on us. When we encounter water in our lives guide us to remember the living water that is Jesus Christ and to live into the truth that we are your children. Amen.