Finding Hope for the New Year in the Waters of Baptism

By Jim Keat 1-02-2017
baptismal font

How often do you think Jesus remembered his baptism?

How often do you remember yours?

A splash of water.

A gasp of breath.

A startled cry.

Eyes wide open.

A community cheers as they offer their welcome.

Remember your baptism.

I was baptized on October 23, 1983. I was 10 days old, held in my parents’ arms, and surrounded by family, friends, and a community of faith that would call me their own. The pastor placed his hands in the water and then onto my head, once, twice, three times.

I don’t remember anything about this day. But this is a day that I will never forget.

Every baptism is an image of beauty in the midst of chaos, recalling the chaotic waters of creation and the Spirit of God hovering over the Tehom to call forth beauty in her midst. Every baptism is a reminder of liberation from exile, the waters parting as we walk out of bondage and into hope. Every baptism is an invitation us to open our eyes and see God at work in us and in spite of us, a holy wind rushing through the community of faith as we feel the splash of water upon our skin.

These are turbulent times. 2016 was a turbulent year. But the waters of baptism invite us to hope. We hold our breath, the water splashing against our skin. We hold our breath, anticipating what is to come. We hold our breath, we remember our baptism, and we have hope.

Baptism is saturated in hope.

Jesus, raised from the waters of the Jordan River, became the hope for those who followed him, inviting them to discover a new way to live in the world, loving our enemies and praying for those who persecute us, realizing that the reign of God is already among us, with us, and within us.

The baptism of a young child evokes a sense of awe and wonder, a collective hope for who they will become as they grow up and how this community will journey with them.

The baptism of an adult embodies this hope in the midst of any chaos, be it adolescence or elections or whatever stress one might experience.

When we remember our baptism, we look forward with hope.

I remember my baptism because my family would not let me forget. Along with the traditional birthday parties, we would hold a special “baptism birthday” celebration. Year after year we would remember the day that the waters of baptism touched my skin. We would recount the ways that we have seen God in our lives and in our world. We would know that no matter what was raging around us, the Spirit of God was always hovering over the waters of our world, a beacon of hope and the promise of new life.

How often do you think Jesus remembered his baptism?

Did he talk with his friends about that day at the Jordan? Did he tell the story of the dove landing on his shoulder and the voice booming from the heavens? In his moments of despair, did his baptism offer him the hope for another day?

Hope must be as tangible as despair. The greater the chaos, the greater our hope. Whatever waters wage around us, we remember a story of God hovering over the surface of the deep, the people of God walking through the parted sea, and the son of God rising from the river to hear the words that echo at every baptism to follow: “You are my Beloved.”

So whether you celebrate your baptism birthday, remember your baptism. Remember that you are beloved by God and called by God to walk forward in the hope of new life for today and every tomorrow.

Look back at the past year. Look all the way back to your baptism. And live every day in hope.

This piece originally appeared at On Scripture.

Rev. Jim Keat is the Associate Minister of Digital Strategy & Online Engagement at The Riverside Church in New York City and the Director of Online Learning at the Center for Progressive Renewal.

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