In South Africa, the new year usually kicks off in the second week of January. People who went to their hometowns, ocean, mountains and bushveld slowly filter back into the city. Those with kids arrive in time to get their children to school. This specific city rhythm usually means that most church services fill up on the second Sunday of the new year. Every year the liturgical calendar’s reading notes that this Sunday is named “The Baptism of the Lord”. This year the text was from the Gospel of Matthew and ended with the beautiful phrase,

and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.
(Matthew 3:17, ESV)

Earlier in this week I pondered on this verse and wondered if the Father also speaks this about my life. I was reminded of Jesus’ prayer in John 17:23 where Jesus notes that the Father loves us the same way he loved Jesus.

I love this “start” to the church calendar in South Africa. It reminds me that all I (we) do is a response to the fact that we are God’s beloved and that we have the beautiful privilege of living our lives as an answer to this significant moment. May our formational and missional adventures stem from this fact, we are already loved and part of the sacred echo telling everyone the same. For God loves the world.

Tom Smith is married to Lollie and they have the sacred privilege of parenting Tayla and Liam. He has a passion for integrating the worlds of spiritual formation and missions. He lives in Johannesburg and loves living in South Africa. Tom is the co-founder of Rhythm of Life.