New beginning

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. Romans 6:1-4

Michael A. Woldt

Have you seen it? The image of a baby wearing a top hat. The sash across the baby’s chest boldly announcing “2016.” Happy New Year! Out with the old. In with the new.

Baby New Year represents hope for the future. But is that hope well founded? Given the world’s past history, it’s hard to understand why the flip of a calendar page evokes any optimism at all. Does anyone really think that 2016 will bring an end to war, crime, poverty, and disease? After the shouts of “Happy New Year” subside and the confetti is swept from Times Square, it’s likely that the first days of 2016 will be quite similar to the last days of 2015.

Baptism changed our future

Are you longing for real change and lasting hope? Then look no further than the day of your baptism. When we entered this world our soft infant skin masked a terrible reality. We were born hostile to God. We were enslaved by Satan and trapped by the curse and power of sin. Jesus’ words to Nicodemus expose our true condition: “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh” (John 3:5,6). The apostle Paul chimes in, “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins” (Ephesians 2:1).

Then we were baptized! Unlike New Year’s celebrations, Baptism is more than a tradition or a ritual. Baptism changed our future in a profound way. The Holy Spirit used the water and Word of Baptism to connect us to Jesus. We were buried with Christ. We died to sin. We were raised to live a new life! A life free from the curse of sin and its eternal consequences. A life liberated from slavery to sin. Baptism frees us to serve Jesus each new day.

Baptism offers hope

The month of January provides a special opportunity to remember the personal blessings we have received through Baptism. The gospel lesson assigned for the first Sunday after Epiphany is the account of Jesus’ baptism. Jesus was baptized as part of his saving work for us. When we witness Jesus’ baptism, we can recall what our baptism means for each new day the Lord gives us in 2016. In words taken from Luther’s Small Catechism: “Baptism means that the old Adam [sinful nature] in us should be drowned by daily contrition and repentance, and that all its evil deeds and desires be put to death. It also means that a new person should daily arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.”

Baptism means that we are not condemned to repeat the sins of 2015. Through contrition and repentance we take the sins of the past to Jesus. The blood he shed on the cross washes them away. Fully. Completely. Through Baptism we are clothed with Christ and his perfection (Galatians 3:27).

What a great way to enter the New Year. What a great way to live each new day!

Contributing editor Michael Woldt is pastor at David’s Star, Jackson, Wisconsin.

 

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Author: Michael A. Woldt
Volume 103, Number 1
Issue: January 2016

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