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A Meditation

 “You are my Son, the Beloved;

with you I am well pleased.”

 This verse in Matthew’s scriptural account of Jesus’ baptism has always jumped off the page at me. The line in somewhat different wording exists in other gospels. The quote is very old in the stories about Jesus because it must have been so often repeated in the earliest reports of Jesus’ life. Thus, it underscores that God’s voice was heard not by Jesus alone, but by the crowd.

The word that jumps off the page to me is beloved. Yes, Jesus is the Son of God, so calling him beloved of God makes sense. But scripture is clear on the point that Jesus is in every way a human person. That indicates all humanity is beloved of God because it couldn’t be otherwise. Our conception of God is not merely that we should love God, but that God first loves us. (The subject of my Christmas sermon.)

God loved Jesus right from the first. God’s substantiation of that for the crowd makes public God’s love for us. And it yokes God’s love, which is already true, to the sacrament of baptism. Baptism is an assertion of the unbreakable bond between God and us. The simple fact of that was always true but now is publicly apparent. There is no equivocation in that grand miracle asserted by God at Jesus’ baptism.

Let’s take this one step further. Baptism, with its pouring or immer-sing in water puts our corporeality into a theological precept. Jesus is the God made flesh and dwelling within us. As Jesus goes forth, he does that embodied. Or as early Christan theologian Anastasius asserts (and it always catches me up short when I contemplate it) God became human so that humans could become God. This statement is shocking in its profound boldness. A factual point hard to believe.

Pastor Neil



Celebrant and People We gather together as we live our lives, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 Celebrant  Bless the Lord who forgives all our sins;

People        His mercy endures forever.

Celebrant         Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.



Celebrant         The Lord be with you.

People               And also with you.

Our Father in heaven, who at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan proclaimed him your beloved Son and anointed him with the Holy Spirit: Grant that all who are baptized into his Name may keep the covenant they have made, and boldly confess him as Lord and Savior; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.



A Reading from Isaiah, at the 43rd Chapter

Isaiah 43:1-7

Thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,

he who formed you, O Israel:

Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;

when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.

For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.

I give Egypt as your ransom,
Ethiopia and Seba in exchange for you.

Because you are precious in my sight,
and honored, and I love you,

I give people in return for you,
nations in exchange for your life.

Do not fear, for I am with you;
I will bring your offspring from the east,
and from the west I will gather you;

I will say to the north, “Give them up,”
and to the south, “Do not withhold.”

Bring my sons from far away
and my daughters from the end of the earth—

Everyone who is called by my name,
[And] whom I created for my glory.

 Reader     The Word of the Lord.

People      Thanks be to God.


Psalm 84, read responsively

Afferte Domino

Ascribe to the Lord, you gods, *
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.

Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his Name; *
worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.

The voice of the Lord is upon the waters;
the God of glory thunders; *
the Lord is upon the mighty waters.

The voice of the Lord is a powerful voice; *
the voice of the Lord is a voice of splendor.

The voice of the Lord breaks the cedar trees; *
the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon;

He makes Lebanon skip like a calf, *
and Mount Hermon like a young wild ox.

The voice of the Lord splits the flames of fire;
the voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness; *
the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.

The voice of the Lord makes the oak trees writhe *
and strips the forests bare.

And in the temple of the Lord *
all are crying, “Glory!”

The Lord sits enthroned above the flood; *
the Lord sits enthroned as King for evermore.

The Lord shall give strength to his people; *
the Lord shall give his people the blessing of peace.


A Reading from Acts from the 8th Chapter

Acts 8:14-17

When the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. The two went down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit (for as yet the Spirit had not come upon any of them; they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus). Then Peter and John laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

Reader: The Epistle of the Lord.

People: Thanks be to God.


A Reading from the Gospel of Luke, at the 3rd Chapter

Luke 3:15-17, 21-22

As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

Celebrant The Gospel of the Lord.
People      Praise to you, Lord Christ.


Sermon                                                        Pastor Neil



The Apostles’ Creed

Celebrant and people

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth;

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.
He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit
and born of the Virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again.

He ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.


Prayers of the People

Father, we pray for your holy Catholic Church;
That we all may be one.

Grant that every member of the Church may truly and
humbly serve you;

That your Name may be glorified by all people.

We pray for all bishops, priests, and deacons;

That they may be faithful ministers of your Word and Sacraments.

We pray for all who govern and hold authority in the nations
of the world;

That there may be justice and peace on the earth.

Give us grace to do your will in all that we undertake;
That our works may find favor in your sight.

Have compassion on those who suffer from any grief or

That they may be delivered from their distress.

Give to the departed eternal rest;
Let light perpetual shine upon them.

We praise you for your saints who have entered into joy;

May we also come to share in your heavenly kingdom.

Let us pray for our own needs and those of others.

 Silence to lift our own prayers to God


Celebrant         Almighty God, by your Holy Spirit you have made us one with your saints in heaven and on earth: Grant that in our earthly pilgrimage, we may always be supported by this community of fellowship of love and prayer. We ask this for the sake of Jesus Christ, in whom all our intercessions are acceptable through the Spirit, and who lives and reigns forever and ever. Amen.


A Confession of Our Sins to God

Celebrant Let us confess our sins against God and our neighbor.

Silence may be kept

Minister and People Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We are truly sorry and we humbly repent. For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us; that we may delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your Name. Amen.

Almighty God have mercy on you, ☩ forgive you all your sins through our Lord Jesus Christ, strengthen you in all
goodness, and by the power of the Holy Spirit keep you in
eternal life. Amen.



The Peace

Celebrant  The peace of the Lord be always with you.

People     And also with you.


The Great Thanksgiving

Celebrant       The Lord be with you.

People              And also with you.

Celebrant         Lift up your hearts.

People              We lift them to the Lord.

Celebrant         Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.

People              It is right to give our thanks and praise.

 God of all power, Ruler of the Universe, you are worthy of
glory and praise. Glory to you for ever and ever. At your command all things came to be: the vast expanse of
interstellar space, galaxies, suns, the planets in their courses,
and this fragile earth, our island home. By your will they were created and have their being. From the primal elements you brought forth humanity, and blessed us with memory, reason, and skill.

Because you gave Jesus Christ, your only Son, to be born for us; who, by the mighty power of the Holy Spirit, was made perfect Man of the flesh of the Virgin Mary his mother; so that we might be delivered from the bondage of sin, and receive power to become your children. You made us the rulers of creation. But we turned against you and betrayed your trust; and we turned against one another.

Have mercy, Lord, for we are sinners in your sight.
Again and again, you called us to return. In the
fullness of time you sent your only Son, born of a woman, to
fulfill your Law, to open for us the way of freedom and peace.
By his blood, he reconciled us. By his wounds, we are healed.
Therefore we praise you, joining with the heavenly
chorus, with prophets, apostles, and martyrs, and with all
those in every generation who have looked to you in hope, to
proclaim with them your glory, in their unending hymn:

Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might, heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest.               ☩ Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.

 We give thanks to you, O God, for the goodness and love
which you have made known to us in creation; in the calling
of Israel to be your people; in your Word spoken through the
prophets; and above all in the Word made flesh, Jesus, your
Son. For in these last days, you sent him to be incarnate from
the Virgin Mary, to be the Savior and Redeemer of the world.
In him, you have delivered us from evil, and made us worthy
to stand before you. In him, you have brought us out of error
into truth, out of sin into righteousness, out of death into life.

On the night before he died for us, our Lord Jesus Christ took
bread; and when he had given thanks to you, he broke it, and
gave it to his disciples, and said, “Take, eat: This is my Body,
which is given for you. Do this for the remembrance of me.”

After supper he took the cup of wine; and when he had given
thanks, he gave it to them, and said, “Drink this, all of you:
This is my Blood of the new Covenant, which is shed for you
and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Whenever you drink
it, do this for the remembrance of me.”

Therefore, according to his command, O Father:

Celebrant and People        We remember his death. We proclaim his resurrection. We await his coming in glory.

And we offer our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving to you,
O Lord of all; presenting to you, from your creation, this
bread and this wine. We pray you, gracious God, to send      ☩ your Holy Spirit upon these gifts that they may be the Sacrament of the Body of Christ and his Blood of the new Covenant. Unite us to your Son in his sacrifice, that we may be sanctified by the Holy Spirit.

In the fullness of time, put all things in subjection under your Christ, and bring us to that heavenly country where we may enter the everlasting heritage of your sons and daughters; through Jesus Christ our Lord, the firstborn of all creation, the head of the Church, and the author of our salvation.

Celebrant and People       By Christ, and with Christ, and in Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit all honor and glory is yours, Almighty Father, now and forever. Amen.

And now, as our Savior Christ has taught us, we are bold to pray:


The Lord’s Prayer

 People      Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever and ever. Amen.


A Call to Communion

Celebrant   The gifts of God for the people of God. Take them in remembrance that Christ died for you, and feed on him in your hearts by faith, with thanksgiving.

Celebrant will distribute communion to people in their chairs.


The General Thanksgiving

Eternal God, heavenly Father, you have graciously accepted us as living members of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ, and you have fed us with spiritual food in the Sacrament of his Body and Blood. Send us now into the world in peace, and grant us strength and courage to love and serve you with gladness and singleness of heart; through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Canticle of Simeon

Everyone  Lord, you now have set your servant free
to go in peace as you have promised;
For these eyes of mine have seen the Savior,
whom you have prepared for all the world to see:
A Light to enlighten the nations,
and the glory of your people Israel.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.


The Blessing

Celebrant         Sisters and brothers, we go out into the world in peace. We live and walk as part of God’s beloved community. May God help us all to be of good courage, to hold on to what is good, and to return to no one an evil for an evil. Strengthen the faint-hearted, support the weak, aid the suffering, do justice, honor all people, and let our gentleness be known by everyone. May God, who raised our Lord Jesus from death, lift us up and restore us to wholeness. And may God bless us all, ☩ in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Celebrant Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.

People      Thanks be to God.


The Art Work on the Cover of This Bulletin

The prophet John the Baptist is shown triumphant over his murderer, Herod, King of Galilee. The saint has the unkempt appearance of the ascetic, and under his cloak, he is wearing a robe of camel hair and holding a scroll that reads: “Ego, Vox. Clamantis in Deserto” (“I am the voice crying in the wilderness. Mt. 3:3”EGO (“I am the voice crying in the wilderness, Mt. 3:3”) Herod too, identified by the word Herodes on one arm, has a scroll bearing a long inscription: “Non Insensati Vita Illorum Extrimabmus Insaniam et Finem Illorum sine Honore Ecce Quomodo Computati Sunt inter non Insensati Vita Illorum Extimabamus Insaniam et Finem Illorum sine Honore Ecce Quomodo Computati Sunt no Inter Filios Domini et inter Sanctos Sors Illorum Est.” (We foolishly considered their life to be madness and their end to be without honor. Behold, how they are numbered among the children of God, and their lot is among the saints. Wisdom 5:4-5). Eleven pictures around the main frame depict scenes from the life of John. In the top right, the tale continues with the sermon of John in the desert; the baptism of Jesus; Salome who, instigated by her mother, Herodias, dances for Herod, asking for the head of John in exchange. At the bottom, in the center, Christ descends into the underworld to rise again and free the souls of John and the righteous.

Giovanni del Biondo’s aims were to propose a clear narrative, together with an intelligible portrayal of the theological concepts. (Remember most altarpieces would be seen by people who could not read, so pictorial representations were a crucial component of scriptural instruction.) Biondo was a prolific painter who focused on settings and on the details of his subjects’ costumes to make it easier to identify the places, characters, and their social classes. The altarpiece comes from the Ginori chapel in the church of San Lorenzo in Florence. It was painted in the latter half of the 14th century. It is presently displayed in the Uffizi Museum in Florence.

Many early altarpieces were relatively simple compositions in the form of a rectangular panel decorated with series of saints in rows, with a central, more pronounced figure such as a depiction of Mary or Christ. The appearance and development of these first altarpieces marked an important turning point both in the history of Christian art as well as Christian religious practice. The image on altarpieces assumed a legitimate position at the center of Christian worship.”  Painted panel altars emerged in Italy during the 13th century. In the 13th century, it was not uncommon to find frescoed or mural altarpieces in Italy; mural paintings behind the altar served as visual complements for the liturgy0. These altarpieces were influenced by Byzantine art, notably icons, which reached Western Europe in greater numbers following the conquest of Constantinople in 1204. During this time, altarpieces occasionally began to be decorated with an outer, sculptured, or gabled structure with the purpose of providing a frame for individual parts of the altarpiece, such as the one on this bulletin cover.  Wikipedia