In Advent we light the Advent Wreath both here in the sanctuary and in our homes, adding one more candle each week. We put away the green of “ordinary time”, clothing ourselves in blue, the color we associate with anticipation.
In “Year B” of the lectionary cycle we bid farewell to Matthew and his focus on prophecy and parable, turning to immerse ourselves in the Gospel story as Mark understood it, an earlier, simpler, more action-focused narrative.
Advent is a time of anticipating, of getting ready. As Christians, as followers of Jesus, we await the inbreaking of God’s Presence -
Our Hebrew ancestors looked eagerly forward to the days when God would intervene in history ushering in realm of peace and righteousness. They understood all that was terrifying in their world as punishment from God for human sin. They looked for a final judgment with the hope that their enemies would perish and that they would be spared.
We heard this fearful-and-yet-hopeful anticipation in the prophesy of Isaiah and the words of the psalmist this morning:
O that you would tear open the heavens and come down,
so that the mountains would quake at your presence--
to make your name known to your adversaries,
so that the nations might tremble at your presence!
Restore us, O God of hosts; *
show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.
Jesus, too, anticipated a time of God’s judgement AND GOD’S REDEMPTION OF THE WORLD; his emphasis in the teaching we hear this morning is on the experience of uncertainty, on our inability to know when these things will take place, and on the importance of remaining watchful and ready.
Well, we know all about worry and about waiting in 2020, as I have observed before. We know about fearful-and-yet-hopeful anticipation.
And on this first Sunday of Advent, we have the blessing of a symbol of hope in our midst. In just a few minutes we are going to baptize Justin Thomas Chabot, welcoming him into the Body of Christ.
It is always uplifting to witness the lively energy of a very small person, and to be with a family gathered to celebrate a new beginning – it reminds us of the promise and potential in every life. It feels especially joyful to celebrate the promise of baptism in a time when we’ve been surrounded by so much separation, so much isolation, such difficulty in maintaining hope.
It is, moreover, a particular joy to witness new generations of families with longterm ties to this congregation – it renews our sense of continuity and hope, and reminds us of God’s ongoing presence and love, supporting families and supporting this parish family through times of change and challenge in the larger world.
We speak of baptism as covenant – a word we’ll hear repeatedly in this morning’s liturgy. Covenants involve agreement and mutuality. Baptism involves both receiving and committing.
When I talk with a family bringing child for baptism, I always ask why baptism is important to them. I pretty much always hear some version of same answer –
We want this child to be in relationship with God – to have God as a fundamental part of his (or her) life.
This answer, this choice to baptize, reflects recognition and desire that the child be connected to something larger, something grounding and life-giving.
In his baptism and the early years of his life, Justin will experience the receiving-and-accepting side of baptismal covenant –
Receiving God’s grace and blessing as he is named as a child of God, not because of anything he has accomplished or earned, but because it is God’s nature to love and bless God’s children.
As he grows, Justin will be nurtured in G’s love – through the family, caregivers, teachers, and community who support and shape him.
Over time, he will grow into the responsibility-and-commitment side of baptismal covenant – that of being not only a child of God, but a disciple of Jesus.
Justin will eventually move into adult capabilities, into the capacity to make an impact on the world around him. Because of baptismal covenants we speak this morning, he will have the opportunity to make God’s love known in the world, to make God’s love make a difference in the world, through his choices.
Indeed, one of the blessings all of us receive in witnessing and participating in Justin’s baptism today is the reminder of our own baptism,
In the anticipation of God’s redemption of the world that we look for on this first Advent Sunday, we know that we are part of the process.
We know that God’s redeeming work takes place through the love of families and members of community who support one another, who do not lose hope, who choose to look beyond themselves and see God’s hand at work, bringing about something new. God’s redeeming work takes place in our choices to reach out and care for God’s children, in our choices to work for justice.
Our call in Advent is to wait and watch: recognizing the signs of God at work and joining in. Amen.
Meet our Preachers
Coffee with Clergy
Do you want to get together to talk about your spiritual life or learn more about our community? Contact us and we will find time to get together.