From swaddling clothes to mantle of teacher, ASAP

By: By Father Dominic Garramone, OSB

The Baptism of the Lord, Jan. 9

Isaiah 42:1-4,6-7; Psalm 29:1-2,3-4,3,9-10; Acts of the Apostles 10:34-38; Matthew 3:13-17

The Christmas season always seems too short to me. I am not referring to the Christmas shopping season, which evidently begins just before Halloween. I mean the liturgical season of Christmas.

The Nativity scene is still up in the abbey church, and here we are watching Jesus be baptized in the Jordan by John. Perhaps it’s because the Easter season is 50 days long by comparison, but the Christmas season seems to fly past.

Another reason for this phenomenon is that the Gospels themselves devote far less time to the origins of Jesus. Mark’s Gospel, the first one to be written (around the year 70), begins with Jesus’ baptism and public ministry. John gives us an account of the divine origins of the Christ, beginning his Gospel with the poetic prologue describing the Word of God existing from all eternity. Only Matthew and Luke contain the familiar Christmas stories of angels, shepherds and magi, but that’s still only two chapters apiece out of 28 and 24 total chapters respectively. Why this paucity of detail?

The ancient world did not share our hunger for biographical details and psychological analysis. Modern biographies of famous figures include stories about the subject’s childhood, education and early career, usually coupled with an evaluation (or outright speculation) about how his or her experiences shaped personality, prejudices, strengths and weaknesses.

The original audiences of the evangelists were not interested in “what made Jesus tick.” They were concerned with more fundamental questions: Is this man Jesus the Messiah, the fulfillment of all God’s promises? How did he die and did he really rise from the dead? Is it true that he is the Son of God? And at the core of all these questions: Does the life and teaching of Jesus have any meaning for me personally?

With these questions forming the background of our reflections, it becomes more obvious why the Christmas season is so short — we need a savior, badly. It’s charming and heartwarming to look upon the smiling child in the manger, but we need that baby to grow up and show us how to live.

The sooner he gets out of those swaddling clothes and into the mantle of a teacher the better. We need someone who can heal our hurts and cast out our demons and cure our blindness. And ultimately, we need someone who will do what no one expected the Messiah to do: die for our sins.

The Christmas season is short because we need a grown-up Jesus who will offer his life in obedience to the Father’s will, who will prove God’s love by dying for us while we were yet sinners, who will conquer sin and death once and for all. The baptism of Jesus reminds us that we were baptized into his passion, death and resurrection, and that the power of the Paschal Mystery is at work in us, to conform us in the likeness of the Son and so bring us to the same glory.

FATHER DOMINIC Garramone, OSB, is a monk of St. Bede Abbey in Peru, where he serves as subprior and choirmaster. He also heads the religion department and serves as drama director at St. Bede Academy. Contact him at

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