Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’
Happy New Year!
A time for new beginnings and possibly for New Year resolutions.
John the Baptist was proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, and the people had flocked into the wilderness to hear him and to be baptised. We hear today about the last of these – Jesus, son of a carpenter from Nazareth. Luke tells us that after he was baptised, heaven opened and the Holy Spirit descended on Him. The words of the voice from heaven are so significant. ‘You are my Son, the Beloved, with you I am well pleased.’
Those of us who have grown up expecting to have to earn respect might wonder what Jesus has done for God to be pleased with him. And the answer is (according to Luke’s account) – nothing! Jesus has not started his ministry, and all that Luke tells us before this incident are his birth, and an incident when he got left behind at the temple, age 12.
But this ‘nothing’ is a wonderful insight into God’s love – for Jesus, and by extension, for us. God is pleased with Jesus, because God loves him – no conditions, no demands, no judgement. God loves Jesus for who he is. So often we try and earn God’s love – perhaps your new year resolution is to pray more or to read your Bible more often. But while these things will help us in our discipleship, God still loves us no matter what, and God is pleased with us.
We cannot fully understand such unconditional love, as we ourselves often struggle to love others and ourselves and to accept being loved. The closest I feel I might have come is love for my grandchild – too young to try and earn love, but loved to bursting nevertheless!
So this year, if you feel the need to make a resolution, consider resolving to take time each day to remember that God loves you, and is pleased with you.
Father, thank you for loving us, and for being pleased with us. Help us to live our lives in the knowledge of that love, and to share it with all whom we meet. Amen
The Rev’d Sue Cossey, NSM and Synod Pastoral Advisor, Bristol Area. Member of Zion United Church, Frampton Cotterell