This Sunday is “The Baptism of the Lord,” so I bring you a children’s sermon on Luke 3:15-17 21-22. As I wrote in my Monday Meditation on this text a while back, this is the story that the Orthodox celebrate at Epiphany. They call it “Theophany.” This is the key moment that reveals the nature of God to the world.
Yes, sure, Jesus is the living breathing theophany. Jesus is the Word is made flesh. He is the manifestation of God—the Second Person of the Trinity in person. But at Jesus’ Baptism, all three Persons of the Trinity enter the scene.
We have hints of the Trinity in the story of creation and elsewhere in the Old Testament. And the case is much plainer throughout the New Testament, especially when Jesus names the Persons of the Trinity in the Great Commission. But here, at Jesus’ Baptism, God reveals the mystery before our eyes and ears. The Son is Baptized. The Father speaks. The Spirit descends.
It is, of course, tempting to focus on the first section of the reading, where John talks about the superiority of Jesus. But for my children’s sermon on Luke 3:15-17 21-22 I want to explore the theophany. I want to give kids bite-sized versions of big theological issues. They’ll grow into them later.
A Children’s Sermon on Luke 3:15-17 21-22
Good morning kids! I’m so glad to see you, thanks for coming up for the children’s sermon.
Today the church celebrates Jesus baptism.
For the last two Sundays we were still celebrating Christmas. During Christmas season we thought about Jesus being born in Bethlehem. And we thought about Jesus as a 12 year old boy who ran away to hang out with the teachers in the temple.
Well today we jump forward in time to when Jesus was all grown up. In this story he’s thirty years old. It’s not Christmas any more. This season is “Epiphany,” when Jesus comes into the world to do his work.
John the Baptist
Jesus’ cousin John had been preaching in the wild lands by the River Jordan. John told everyone to get their lives ready because God was sending the Messiah.
John helped them get ready by bringing them down into the Jordan River and dipping them in the water. It was a kind of special bath.
The water reminded them that God’s love had washed away all the bad things they had ever done. When they came out of the water, they could start over, living the way God asked them to live. And they would be ready when God’s Messiah came.
Some people thought maybe John himself was the Messiah.
But John said “No! I’m not the Messiah. The Messiah is much more important than me. He’s going to make everything new.”
The Baptism of Jesus
One day, Jesus himself came out to the wild lands around the River Jordan.
Jesus came to John, just like everybody else.
Jesus went down’ into the river, just like everybody else.
He had John dip him on the waters of the Jordan, even though Jesus had no bad stuff to wash away.
Jesus wanted to show he was doing all the things that please God, along with everybody else.
When Jesus came out of the water, his heart was all full of big thoughts and big feelings.
He knew he would now start his work of teaching about God’s Kingdom. Soon he would be healing sick people, and feeding hungry people, and making the demons go away so people could be free.
There was so much on his mind, and so much in his heart that he just had to spend some time praying to God, his Father.
So there he was, praying. Lots of other people were around. Some were getting ready to be baptized. Some had already been baptized, just like Jesus. Maybe their hearts and minds were full, too. Maybe they were spending some time praying too, just like Jesus.
Some of the people happened to be looking in Jesus’ direction. They saw something above him, like a fluttering of wings.
“What was that?” someone said.
“Was that a bird? I thought I saw wings flapping!” said someone else.
“I heard the flapping!” said a third person, “Where was that coming from?”
Soon a whisper was passing all through the crowd.
“Look!” people said.
And when everyone turned to look, they really did see something.
It was a beautiful bird. The clouds of heaven had opened up, and out of the opening came a dove. It came gently down from heaven, and it landed right on Jesus. Right while he was praying.
The guy next to Jesus nudged his arm. “Um, Sir?” said the man to Jesus. “There’s a bird on your head. I think a dove just landed on you.”
Jesus opened his eyes and looked at the man who spoke to him. “That’s not just any old bird. This dove is the Holy Spirit. It is God’s own Spirit in physical form.”
“Wow!” said the man. And he started spreading the word.
Well, just about when the news of that got through the crowd a voice came from the sky, from that same opening in the clouds. The voice sounded joyful and proud and kind of excited. The voice said,
This is my own son! I love him so much! I’m so happy about who he’s grown up to be!
That’s what happened when John baptized Jesus.
For centuries and centuries the Church has treasured that story. On that day, the people of God saw something clearly that they’d never been quite sure of before.
They always knew that there is only one God. But when Jesus was baptized they learned that our one God is always three “Persons.”
The “First Person” is God who is Father of a Son, who spoke from heaven.
The “Second Person” is Jesus, God who is the Son of the Father, who was baptized, who was spoken to from heaven, and who welcomed the dove.
And the “Third Person” is God the Holy Spirit, who took the form of a dove and rested on Jesus.
One God. Three loving Persons. That’s what we remember when we celebrate Jesus’ baptism.
- I wonder whether you were baptized as a baby, or if you’ll get baptized when you are older?
- I wonder what Jesus felt like when the Holy Spirit landed on him, and his Father’s voice spoke from heaven?
- I wonder what it was like for people in the crowd to encounter the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit all at once?
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