My Dear Sisters and Brothers! A few days after Christmas, for a brief moment I wished I was a Greek-Orthodox Christian. Why? I saw some people already putting out their real Christmas trees for the council hard waste collection and I thought: “If I was a Greek Orthodox who celebrates Christmas a couple of weeks after the Catholics I would never need to buy Christmas trees. I could simply recycle those perfect unwanted trees for free.” I presume that those people getting rid of their Christmas trees well before the New Year Day would be surprised that this Sunday is still in Christmastide. Although in the Gospel for this Feast, Jesus doesn’t look very Christmassy, does he? Why doesn’t he look Christmassy? Because in our mentality we think about Jesus at Christmas as a Baby, don’t we? However the uniqueness of Christmas as the celebration of the birth of the Son of God is synthesized in helping us to recognise in him God. God became a man for our sake and he didn’t hide it from us. He has revealed his Incarnation to us. That’s why the Baptism of the Lord is celebrated as a part of Christmastide, even if Jesus Christ is already 30 years old, because we can see the event as the continuation of assisting us at recognising in him God.
Jesus was baptised so that we could realise that God is among us and that this God is at work for our sake. “The heaven opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in a bodily shape, like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, the Beloved; my favour rests on you.”
For some people Christmas is over as soon as the presents are opened and the turkey and ham eaten up. However the Church gives us some time to meditate, to pray, to savour Christmas so that before we all pack up our Christmas decorations - and start eating hot cross buns – we can get this skill of recognising the presence of God in our lives and in the lives of others.
I asked you to do that activity after the Gospel not simply to get you talk to each other about God, which was a bonus itself, but to give you an encouragement to search for God. I hope and I pray that you can get that God’s presence is not limited to the pages of the Bible. If our life is like a book and every day is like a page of that book, God is there.
Not all people on the banks of the Jordan River recognised God in Jesus. John the Baptist did, because he had a sharp sense of faith, the supernatural appreciation of faith. As we know John the Baptist spent a lot of time in the desert where there is not much to indulge one’s sense of sight. The desert is dull. There is not much to indulge one’s sense of sound. The desert is quiet. There is no much to indulge one’s sense of smell. The desert is dry burnt. There is not much to indulge one’s sense of touch. There is sand everywhere. There is not much to indulge one’s sense of taste. John ate wild honey and some insects. It can’t compete with our Christmas lunches, can it? But it all contributed to John’s sharp sense of faith. Just think about our preparations for Christmas. Any visit to a shopping centre and our senses go wild. They overpower our sense of faith. Then it is so hard for us to sense God’s presence. Our sense of faith goes blunt. On the other hand just imagine how much joy we can have when we discover God in our ups and downs. Imagine also how much joy we can give to others by directing their attention to God’s presence in their life. John the Baptist discovered God coming to him for baptism. To have and to spread such a joy is worth the work on our senses.