Isaiah 42:1, 6 Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him, he will bring forth justice to the nations. Ö"I am the LORD, I have called you in righteousness, I have taken you by the hand and kept you; I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations,
Today is the 1st Sunday after Epiphany. Epiphany means manifestation, and refers to the revelation of Jesus as Christ, the Savior of the World. And the event in question, is the baptism of Jesus. While others came to John the Baptist, in repentance, turning from their sins and returning to God, because they had heard that the end was near, Jesus was without sin, so he had nothing to repent of, no sins that needed washing away. Jesus came to carry the weight of those sins, so that he might make atonement for sin, and offer forgiveness, pardon and peace, by paying our debts.
Baptism is a wonderful thing, but simple water cannot wash away out sins. Mothers know this, often children wash up without soap, and if any dirt comes off, it comes off on the towel, it takes soap and scrubbing to wash away the dirt. So baptism is not simple water only, but it is water connected with the command and promise of God, it is water and the word, and the faith that trusts the promise of God - it is the Word and faith that give the water of baptism the cleansing power. It is the Word and Faith, that puts, as it were the soap into baptism, and it is in the blood of Jesus that our sins are washed away. And so it is today, that we remember the baptism of Jesus, and how in that event, in the descending spirit, and in the voice from heaven, we saw that Jesus was God at work bringing salvation to mankind, and to us.
But baptism is more than a washing away of sin, baptism works a change on us. Baptism answers our prayer: "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within meÖ" You see, at baptism, God takes away all our sin, and gives us his name. At baptism, God chooses us, and we become the servants of God.
Now being a servant of God can be an overwhelming thing, kind of like the blizzard we have just been through, a helpless feeling that says, what can we do? As servants of God, it is important for us to remember, that it is not what we can do, but what the spirit can do, working through us. By ourselves we cannot speak or stand, but the Spirit upholds us, and the spirit puts the words in our mouth. And our call is to bring forth justice to the nations. And we bring forth justice by the power of Godís Word -- Law which convicts sin, and Gospel which announces forgiveness. Law which shows that all our good works are as filthy rags, and Gospel which tells of Godís gift of the forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ.
And looking back at the blizzard, we say, how did we survive? God held us by the hand, God supported us and sustained us, and provided for our needs. God kept us safe. But again, this is not the end of the story, but rather its beginning, for God has called us to be a light to the nations. The light we carry is Christ in us. And by the light in us, we guide people to the cross of Christ in which we find salvation, the forgiveness of sins, and peace with God. God at work in our lives is a light, and a hope and promise for all people, for as God has worked his new creation on us, so also he promises it to those who have not heard, and who do not yet believe -- by grace through faith, in Jesus Christ. So the manifestation of Jesus as the Christ continues in our time and in years to come, manifest in the faith of believers, in whom God has worked.