Learn more about the readings, music, and worship-service planning helps for the Baptism of Our Lord.
Season & Preparations
The First Sunday after the Epiphany focuses our attention on Jesus being baptized in the Jordan by John. It may be your local custom to use the Epiphany of Our Lord readings for this Sunday rather than the Baptism of Our Lord readings, so be sure to clarify that detail for your congregation.
Both the Epiphany of Our Lord and the First Sunday after the Epiphany use white as the color of decoration, so your choice of readings won’t affect the color of the paraments. However, if you are not using the Epiphany readings, you should remove the nativity scene. It does not make sense to have Jesus in a nativity scene as an infant and then in the day’s Gospel as an adult.
The season of Epiphany is a time when the Church marvels at Jesus as He reveals Himself as the divine Son of God. This week, as Jesus is baptized in the Jordan by John, the heavens are torn open, the Spirit descends onto Him (εἰς αὐτόν), and a voice comes from the heavens: “You are My beloved Son; with You I am well pleased” (Mark 1:11).
The glory of the Trinity is shown in this trinitarian event in which Father, Son, and Spirit are revealed. It is a mysterious scene, yet we trust the words of the Father that Jesus is the beloved Son of God. More will be revealed about Jesus in the coming weeks of Epiphany, and the Church continues to marvel at the amazing revelation given to us in Jesus.
Readings & Theme
As noted above, this Sunday’s Gospel drives the themes of the day. Mark’s Gospel does not record some familiar aspects of this scene that are recorded by the other Gospel writers. For example, in Mark there is no argument by John about how he should be baptized by Jesus. There is no statement from Jesus about fulfilling all righteousness. Jesus is said to baptize with the Holy Spirit, but not with fire.
The Old Testament Reading is the opening verses of Genesis 1. Here, one might find fruit in a trinitarian connection. God, His Spirit, and His Word are all present in the first verses of Scripture. God, His Spirit, and His Word are also present in the Gospel from Mark 1, but now God’s Word has revealed Himself in human form. Furthermore, the theme of God revealing Himself is present in Genesis 1 as God reveals Himself to be the Creator, creating light and separating it from darkness.
The psalm for the day, Psalm 29, connects the Old Testament Reading and Gospel with these words in verse 3: “The voice of the LORD is over the waters.”
The Epistle, from Romans 6, is a classic Baptism text. We are baptized into Jesus’ death and resurrection. Baptism is an act of killing and making alive again that unites us to Jesus, who was killed and yet raised to new life.
There is a connection from Jesus’ Baptism to our own Baptism. I find it best to focus that connection on the words spoken from heaven. God says to Jesus, “You are My beloved Son.” God states this fact, which has been true for all eternity, before the creation of the world. This is not a new status for Jesus. Yet the same words of God come to us in our own Baptism: “You are My beloved son. You are My beloved daughter.” God claims us as His own children in Baptism.
Hymns & Music
The Hymn of the Day is “To Jordan Came the Christ, Our Lord” (LSB 406/407), a Martin Luther hymn. Other hymns that cover the narrative of today’s Gospel are “Jesus, Once with Sinners Numbered” (LSB 404) and “To Jordan’s River Came Our Lord” (LSB 405).
If you care to focus on our Baptism, “God’s Own Child, I Gladly Say It” (LSB 594) is an excellent choice.
Additional Resources for Worship & Study
As you seek to teach more about the Baptism of Jesus, the Arch Book called The Story of Jesus’ Baptism and Temptation may be a helpful resource. CPH also has an Arch Book called The Story of Creation, as well as numerous materials on Baptism.
Looking for additional information on planning for the Baptism of Our Lord? Download our planning sheet to help you get started!
Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.