With the close of Christmastide on Epiphany—Twelfth Night or the twelfth day of Christmas, the community of faith returns again to Ordinary Time for nine Sundays until Lent begins. With the exception of the first and last Sundays after Epiphany, the chancel is again vested in green. On those “bookend” Sundays, however, the chancel is vested in festive white for two festivals: Baptism of the Lord and Transfiguration. Christ's baptism by John the Baptist marked the beginning of His public ministry (Matthew 3:13-17) and this feast day offers believers the opportunity to examine again the covenant embodied by the sacrament and to reaffirm their commitment to that covenant.
The provisions of this covenant include the renunciation of sin, the acceptance of God's freedom and power to resist sin, and the confession of the Christ as Savior. While this seems innocuous enough, it is in the remaining provisions of the covenant that the mission handed to Christians becomes apparent. Because of the salvation professed, the Christian covenants to serve Christ as Lord in union with the Church, to remain faithful members of Christ's holy Church, and to be God's representatives in the world. Being God's representatives in the world means that each Christian has a unique ministry ( I Corinthians 12:12-31) which may be demonstrated singularly but, more often, in conjunction with others.
This supposedly minor feast, often ignored, offers the Christian the opportunity to again examine how his or her own personal ministry manifests God in the world. It reminds the believer to form an answer to the following: “What difference does Christ make in my life? What difference does Christ in my life make in the lives of others?”
Let these nine Sundays of Ordinary Time become a period of growth as you examine how your own personal ministry is the presence of God to those around you. Literally or figuratively, dip your hand again into the water which washes away the sins which impede a personal ministry: doubt, fear, self-consciousness, lack of education, lack of motivation, pride.
Come to the water; Christ awaits.
The United Methodist Book of Worship. 1992. The United Methodist Publishing House: Nashville, TN.