“I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit” (Mark 1:8)
Matthew and Luke are the only two gospel writers who tell a nativity story. The other synoptic gospel, Mark, begins instead with the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist in the Jordan. Mark’s apparent neglect of the nativity story could leave some readers to exclaim, “Hey! Where’s the womb?”
But upon further reflection, Mark may not be the nativity hater we think he is. I think the gospel writer tells his own birth narrative by first introducing Jesus at his baptism. Jesus walks out into the water, echoing the creation story in Genesis where the Word is spoken into the raging deep. Just as the waters separate revealing a new creation in Genesis, so too the heavens are separated at Jesus’ baptism revealing a new creation. And just like in Genesis, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all present.
So you see, there is a womb in Mark’s gospel. It is the womb of Christ’s baptism. It is the watery birth of a new creation. Mark’s message is clear: new life with Jesus begins in baptism. Baptism is a spiritual birth, a birth not wrought by water but by the presence of the Holy Spirit.
This is why the United Methodist Baptismal Covenant connects so many “water” stories together. The Thanksgiving Over the Water states that in the same way that God created in the beginning, saved Noah on the ark, delivered the Israelites through the Red Sea, blessed the Israelites through the Jordan River, and sent Jesus nurtured in the water of a womb, God continues to create, save, deliver, bless, and nurture us through the waters of our baptism.
So “where’s the womb?” It is in those blessed waters of our baptism where God gives new birth through the Holy Spirit.
Praise Almighty God for the immeasurable gift of our baptism!
What other biblical stories involving water can also be connected to new birth?
How is God offering you new life this Advent season?