John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.6 John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7 And this was his message: “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8 I baptize you with[a]water, but he will baptize you with[b] the Holy Spirit.”
9 At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
You Are My Sons and Daughters Whom I Dearly Love
The Congregational Church of Easton – January 14, 2024
In our Gospel Lesson for this morning, we are told that a time came for Jesus to come from Nazareth in Galilee to be baptized by John in the Jordan.
And “just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
That’s Who Jesus was. That was His identity.
Jesus heard His Father’s voice and He clung to that voice as He lived His life. There were times when people praised Him, and there were times when people rejected Him. When He entered Jerusalem at the beginning of the last week of His life people shouted Hosanna! But by the end of that week, people crucified Him.
But through it all, Jesus hung on to the Truth—I am God’s Son, God loves me and with me, God is well pleased!
That is Who Jesus was and that enabled Him to live triumphally in a world that kept rejecting Him, or praising Him or laughing at Him, or spitting on Him.
His identity didn’t depend on what He did, or what others said about Him or what He had. He was God’s Son, who God loved. And God was pleased with Him. And that was all that mattered.
And if there is nothing else you or I hear this morning, I want you to know that what God said of Jesus God says of us! You are God’s daughter; you are God’s son. God loves you. God is pleased with you.
Let’s try something. Put yourself in Jesus’ shoes. Close your eyes and pretend you are Jesus. You’ve just got out of the water after John has baptized you. As water drips off, you are suddenly filled with the presence of the Holy Spirit, and you hear a voice. The voice startles you by saying, you were my beloved daughter. I find happiness in you — or, for the gentleman in the room — you are my beloved son. I find happiness in you.
Imagine what that would feel like…. Imagine what it would be like for God to say to you, “You are my beloved son or daughter.”
“I have loved you with an everlasting love,” God says in Jeremiah. God says in Isaiah, “I have engraved your name on the palm of my hands.” Jesus says, “I love you. I died for you. You are mine and I am yours. And you belong to me, and no one can snatch you out of my hands!”
Do you hear this ? Do you know this? Can you really take this in? Is this who you are—the beloved child of God?
We will still be rejected at times, and we will still be praised at other times, and we will still have loses — but we will live as people who are no longer searching for our identity—no longer trying to answer the question: “Who am I?” We will still have pain and failures and success, but we will know who we are and Whose we are.
After Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness for forty days to be tempted by Satan, He was able to hold on to His identity as the Son of God, whom God loves and with whom God is well pleased… He went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, saying “The time has come. The kingdom of God has come near.”
If we can hold onto the fact that God loves us, that Jesus came and died for us—if we repent and truly believe that Good News — we too, can be free to walk in this life proclaiming God’s love to others. In 1st John, it says, “We love because God first loved us.”
That’s what it’s all about. That is who we are. That is Whose we are. And nothing else matters.
Let us pray. Holy One: We are so privileged. We are so blessed. Like Jesus, we are God’s daughters and sons. God loves us. God is pleased with us. Praise be to God. Amen.
 Adapted from a sermon by Rev. Kenneth Sauer, 1/5/74