“Baptism of Christ” (detail) by Perugino

This coming Sunday is the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. In the readings for Mass, an option for the first reading is from Isaiah 40. The passage is ripe with imagery that perhaps sounds a little more like our Advent readings. In fact, this same reading is the reading for the second Sunday of Advent in Year B (Isaiah 40:1–5, 9–11).

This connection is perhaps a reminder to us that the longing and expectation of Advent is not completely fulfilled. The Jewish expectation of the Messiah was answered in Christ, but He did not come to completely eradicate suffering and slavery from their lives. Christ has come, but there is still an expectation that remains unsatisfied.

Advent is over and Christmas is here (we are still in the Christmas season until the day after the Baptism of the Lord!) but our longing and expectation is not fully satisfied with those presents under the tree or even family time and celebrations. Ultimately, our heart longs for heaven.

Only Heaven will completely answer our deepest desires and needs.

The Jewish people waited thousands of years for an answer to the sin in the Garden. What was promised in the protoevangelium in Genesis 3:15 would be repeated again and again through the time of the prophets. That Christmas night, the promise was answered. But Christ still had more to do.

The epiphany – the revelation of Christ’s divinity – that began to the wise men from the East continued at the Jordan River years later, when Christ began His public ministry. He begins by showing us the answer to our suffering, our longing, our expectation.

“Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her service is at an end, her guilt is expiated…”

We long for an end of suffering and slavery. Our Messiah has come with the keys to the gate of heaven. And that journey begins with baptism.

Jesus didn’t require baptism. He didn’t go to John to be baptized so He could be sanctified by those waters. Rather, He goes down into the waters to sanctify them. He is beginning to show us what He has come to do: the new Adam has come with the new creation.

The joyful moment of Jesus’ baptism by John may have gone unnoticed by many in the crowd. But John, the last of the great prophets, saw the fulfillment of the prophecies standing in the river in front of him. Perhaps his heart cried out with Isaiah,

“Jerusalem, herald of good news! Fear not to cry out and say to the cities of Judah: Here is your God!”

For those who had eyes to see and ears to hear, Jesus’ baptism was another epiphany, a declaration from the Father than the long reign of sin was ending. Our Savior had come, and had begun the new creation. Baptism raises us from mere creatures to children of the most High God. It removes original sin and any personal sin we may have committed, and it incorporates us into the Body of Christ. It is our reminder that we are made from the dirt of the Garden and have a home in Heaven.

“Comfort, give comfort to my people!”

The expectations of Advent continue to be fulfilled with this great feast of the Baptism of the Lord. If you are baptized, rejoice in that day that changed your life. Rejoice in the comfort of the new creation in Christ.

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