I put this picture of a 12th century mosaic of the baptism of Christ up on Facebook as my cover photo this week:
There were a number of witty comments about this image but one friend said ‘did anyone else think it looks a bit rude?’
I immediately responded, well, the incarnation IS rude!
It is. The fact of God made flesh is shocking. No wonder that the Eastern Orthodox focus on the Baptism of Christ at Christmas more than on the birth of the baby Jesus. Many Christians in Russia jump into freezing cold water in commemoration of their baptism (and Christ’s) at their Christmas celebrations. Just as we gasp (even if only at the thought) as we step into freezing cold water, so we should gasp at the fact of the incarnation. It is shocking. The day it stops seeming a ‘bit rude’ is the day we’ve missed the point.
Jesus came and lived among us, as one of us. He would have sweated, burped and got sand between his toes. His body was really human. And in being baptised by John he humbled himself fully to take on the human condition. Jesus’ baptism is a powerful epiphany or manifestation of what God did in the incarnation.