The Baptism of the Lord (C)
"While Jesus after his own baptism was at prayer, heaven opened."
The Word This Week
It may seem strange, but this is a Christmas Feast. Not if we think of Christmas only in terms of the Baby in Bethlehem, but if we have followed the ideas of the Feasts of Holy Family and especially Epiphany, and have seen the Season in terms of the growing manifestation or appearing of the Son of God: first to the shepherds and then to the wise men from the East. Now in the River Jordan, Jesus, Son of Mary, is revealed to all as the fullness of all Gods promises: This is my Son, the Beloved.
On this day we stand before the revelation of Gods love for us, such that he would send his only Son into the world. Christmas without the Baptism of the Lord, and the words that are spoken from heaven, would be incomplete, since it is only in them that we fully see the wonder of what happened in
Notes for Readers
Since we are talking about revelation, the first reading opens us to the knowledge of who the Son of God is, and what he will do. Again, as in the Gospel, it is the Lord God who speaks, pointing out to us the One whom he has anointed. The reading is quite sensibly divided into paragraphs, so use them to dictate your pauses when reading. There is a slightly different tone between the first three paragraphs, and the last two. The first are about the Lords servant; the last are addressed to the servant. Again you must note the poetry of the reading, and the pictures and images it calls up. Be careful, however, because the language is sometimes a little obscure, and will need to be read very carefully if people are going to hear and follow you. (An example is the phrase he will neither waver... which is not a familiar usage.) Towards the end your tone should grow warmer and more positive, as you read the Lords address to his servant, especially in the last three lines.
(Optional Year C) First
We return to John the Baptist as the voice preparing the way of the Lord, as we heard in Advent: since this feast is the revelation of the Messiah to all nations, the line then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all mankind shall see it is of special significance and should be emphasised. The reading should build up to that point, starting very gently with Console my people... and growing through the voice in the wilderness. The second half of the reading can stay at that peak - imagine yourself standing by the River Jordan proclaiming these words after Jesus has come up from the water!
This is both a conclusion to Christmas and the beginning of Ordinary Time: as Peter speaks, he sums up the mystery of the Revealing of the Saviour to all nations which we have celebrated in recent weeks, but also looks forward, through the Baptism of Jesus and his Anointing with the Holy Spirit, to the work we will hear about in the next few weeks before Lent. In the first paragraph, echo Peters emphasis: ...but that anybody of any nationality... Similarly in the second paragraph, the phrase Lord of all men... is to be brought out. The words You must have heard... is a lovely, natural phrase; pause before it and give it its full effect. Also the words because God was with him... are particularly relevant to todays feast. A simple summary can seem very easy to read, but be careful not to rush and lose the congregation as they follow you through Peters argument.
(Optional Year C) Second
Again the key is revelation, the appearing of the glory of God as Jesus is baptised. This reading links two ideas beautifully: that Jesus is revealed (by the voice from heaven) and that Baptism (which Jesus transformed by being baptised) is our way of taking part in what was revealed. Read through this carefully before hand, to get the meaning clear in your own mind. This will tell you what to emphasise when reading out loud.
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