We all look for the finishing touches. Some people think their ice cream sundae isn’t complete until the cherry is on top. Some people think their home isn’t built until they hang their family photo. For others, their day isn’t complete until they’ve visited with their spouse or kissed their children goodnight.
Today the Church offers us the finishing touch on our celebration of Christmas. We remember that day, 2000 years ago when Jesus Christ, now a grown man, takes part in the Baptism of John. Why does Jesus, the Son of God, who is like us in all things except sin, need baptism? How does this complete our celebration of Christmas?
The first question is the same one that John the Baptist asks in today’s Gospel: “I need to be baptized by you and yet you are coming to me?” Jesus answers: “Allow it for now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” When He was in the womb of Mary and at the manger of Bethlehem, Jesus took on our human existence, all that it means to be human, except sin. As Jesus begins preaching, healing, and proclaiming the Kingdom of God, He does it by an act of solidarity with us. As He approaches the waters of the river Jordan and John the Baptist, Jesus says “Though I am true God and do not know sin, I will join you in the full effects of sin. I begin by joining you who wish to repent of sin, sadness, discord, and death.” Jesus enters the waters of the Jordan to join all of us who long for a life of goodness, peace, and holiness.
Jesus also enters the waters of the Jordan to make all water holy. In our own Baptism, water and the Spirit cleanse our hearts to make us holy. Today, Jesus enters the water to make it holy so it may receive His Spirit for our baptism. Jesus baptizes water so that water may baptize us.
This brings us to our second question: “How does this complete our celebration of Christmas?” Christmas is the feast of Emmanuel- God is with us. Our entire Catholic faith lives this out- God is with us. God is with us in our sorrow, our contrition, our sickness, and even our death.
Jesus baptizes water so that we might be baptized by water and the Holy Spirit. This feast completes Christmas by directing us through the rest of the year. On Christmas, we adored Christ in the manger, where do we find Him now? We are sure to find Christ in the Sacraments: in the Real Presence at Sunday Mass, in our Baptismal promises, in the gifts of the Spirit through Confirmation, in our sorrow for sin in Confession, in His presence in our suffering through the Anointing, in the love and sacrifice of our Priests, and in the faithfulness of Wedding vows. God is with us.
Do not wait until next Christmas to adore Jesus. Do not wait until next Christmas to hear the angelic hymns. The Church gives us the completion, the fullness of Christmas, the “cherry on top.” By living this Sacramental life throughout the year we continue to meet and adore Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit.