Today, the Feast of the Baptism of our Lord, is the very last day of the Christmas season. The last day to wish someone a Merry Christmas. On Monday the 14th we enter into Ordinary Time. Now in the days leading up to the Christmas season there was a radio station in Grand Rapids that after Thanksgiving began playing Christmas music 24/7. And when in the car that’s what I listened to. And it sometimes seemed that they played the same five songs over and over all day long. And one song in particular caught my attention, they played over and over, different singers but the same song. That song was “Santa Claus is coming to Town.” We probably all know this song by heart, “…He’s gonna find out who’s naughty or nice. He knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake!”
Now when listening to this song this song seems to imply that Christmas is only for the good. That Christmas is only for the nice. But that’s just not right, it’s bad theology, it’s the exact opposite, Christmas is not for the nice. Christmas is for the naughty, Christmas is for the sinner. One of the charges laid against Jesus was that He ate with sinners. And in many of the parables our Lord always seeks out the sinner leaving the good behind. The Good Shepherd leaves the 99 in the field to go in search of the lost sheep and when found, with great joy is placed on His shoulders. The lost coin when found is the cause of great rejoicing. There was no party, however, for the other nine coins, which were never lost. Scripture tells us there is great rejoicing in Heaven over the return of the fallen.
Now there would have been no need for Christmas if our first parents in the Garden had not committed the original sin. There would have been no need for Christmas if they had remained sinless and nice. But that Happy Fault of Adam gave us Jesus in the flesh, God incarnate, born on Christmas, born for sinful me and sinful you. He became our bridge to Heaven. And today on this very last day of the Christmas Season we hear of the Baptism of our Lord. When Jesus enters into perfect solidarity with sinful humanity. In the words of St. Paul, “He who knew no sin became sin for our sake” (2Cor. 5:21).
The Sacrament of Baptism is pure gift. A gift of salvation not offered to us because we are nice, but offered because we are naughty, we are sinful. A gift offered to even the most sinful. We could maybe think of baptism as Christmas for the soul. The baptized soul becomes the new Bethlehem receiving our Lord, becoming his dwelling.
With baptism the Christian is grafted onto Jesus and drawn into the inner life of God, sharing in the very life of God, not only following and imitating Jesus but becoming a member of his mystical body sharing in his priesthood, his prophetic role, and his kingship. As a priest we offer sacrifice and worship through prayer, sacraments, and Mass. As a prophet we study the faith our whole life and bear it witness in our families and communities. As a king we lead and direct others to God. This is our mission as baptized Catholics; to worship God, to study everything we can about God knowing him not only in our mind but in our heart too, and finally to lead others to God. This is our mission.
With the gift of Christmas Heaven can become our future home. With the gift of Christmas our future can become a life totally immersed in the Trinity. Cardinal Rigali once wrote that the goal of the baptized is to become more and more like Jesus. And the highest compliment paid to any Christian it to be mistaken for Jesus. At death we are greeted by God the Father and for the Christian faithfully following the mission of Jesus he or she is greeted and complimented with the words, “My Jesus, my beloved, welcome home.”
As baptized Christians may we too hear these words one day addressed to us, “My Jesus, my beloved, welcome home.” Merry Christmas.
Let us be great Saints,
Fr. Christopher J. Ankley