Mark 1:4-11 (NRSV)
Verse 4John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Verse 5And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Verse 6Now John was clothed with camel's hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. Verse 7He proclaimed, "The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. Verse 8I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."
Verse 9In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. Verse 10And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. Verse 11And a voice came from heaven, "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased."
When Mark records John the Baptist as saying, “I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit,” it causes me to wonder what the people actually heard? “The Holy Wind?” “The Holy Breath?”
Pneuma. What an odd word. How is it connected with the coming of the Messiah? And what makes it holy? Whatever images get evoked, it shows itself in a ripped open sky, appearing like a dove. And with its descent comes a voice, “With you I am well pleased.”
Maybe that’s what we need as we come off a particularly challenging year—a breath of fresh pneuma—an encouraging word of blessing and promise. For the voice that spoke these words to Jesus Messiah in his baptism is the voice that speaks to us in our baptism, and beyond.
And they are encouraging. We belong. We are claimed. We are not alone.
Holy Pneuma, come breathe your hope into our lives; grant that by virtue of your claim upon us in baptism we might have peace and purpose in this unfolding new year. Amen.