Wonderfully we are having a baptism again in the parish. A beautiful little girl named Paige will be baptised at St. John’s. So I will once again be reflecting on how to connect the Scriptures to baptism. It is also New Year’s day for the Church. The First of Advent welcomes a new beginning and I will also be thinking of connections to Advent found in the readings.
So we will be celebrating a new life and a new year. When you are only 5 months old you have a clean slate. It is exciting to think of the wonderful possibilities that lie ahead for Paige. Beside the fact that they are so adorable , I think that one of the reasons we like babies is that they represent new hope , new dreams, new possibilities. And of course we have this same kind of feeling ( although unlike a baby it is kind of arbitrarily designated) when we start a new year. We have New Year parties and resolutions for the future. It is a time when we think of what could be and attempt to live into that future.
I think all of our readings for have this theme.
Isaiah is addressing Judah in a bleak time in their history. They will be soon be defeated and taken into exile and yet he is looking towards a brighter future. 2:3 Many peoples shall come and say, "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths." For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.2:4 He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
He is confident that there will be a time when people will come to hear, learn and follow God’s ways. Wonderfully, he also declares that we will live in peace someday. To describe this peace Isaiah uses the imagery of turning weapons of war into instruments of farming. What a great thought, to turn something that destroys life into something that nourishes and refreshes life.
However , Isaiah believes that this future hope should direct the way we live in the present, He says, “ O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the LORD!
St. Paul in our Epistle reading is using much the same logic. He is telling us that our salvation is closer. It is coming. He uses the imagery of the night turning into day and that now the day is coming. This is our future hope. But Paul like Isaiah thinks this hope should impact our present and using the same imagery he says that we should live as people in the light not the darkness. I suppose a good sermon could compare and contrast the difference between living in light or darkness as Paul begins to do himself. I also really like the imagery of putting on Christ. This is particularly fitting for when Paige will be wearing a beautiful white baptismal gown made from her mother’s wedding dress. It speaks of being surrounded by her families love and of course the colour white reminds us of Jesus which signifies that in her baptism Paige is putting on Jesus’s love. Nice thought that in our baptisms we are surrounded by Christ’s love , we put him on.
The Gospel follows the same pattern as our other readings. It is apocalyptic language and it would be helpful and wise for me to prepare a sermon or teaching session on how we are to interpret these teachings of Jesus. But for this blog I will just say that Jesus is saying the Son of Man of Christmas will return. There will be a time in the future when God will make all things new. So we should live today as if that day were here now. Once again the future impacts how we live now. The reason we have this reading in Advent is I think twofold. First off, Jesus warns us to prepare and Advent is a time for us to prepare ourselves for the coming of Christ into our lives. So traditionally we have taken on spiritual disciplines such as prayer , Scripture study and so on. I think it would be marvelous if everyone gave over a bit of time each day to do a devotional in advent and if possible light advent candles each day. You will notice that all three readings speak about living in the light and the Advent Candles are very effective in reminding us of the light of Christ.
Secondly and closely related to the first reason is that Advent is not only a time to prepare for Christmas ,the first coming of the Lord. Advent is also a time to prepare for the second coming of Christ. Of course this aspect of Advent is almost totally lost on us with all of the hustle and bustle of Christmas shopping and parties. And like last week when we read from our Lord’s passion on the cross , if someone new to the church joins us like they will at the baptism they would surely think that we are totally out of sync. You could not blame them for thinking “should we not be singing carols and reading about a little baby born in a manger. Well at least we will have a little baby at St. John’s
What would you say if you had to preach ? I have obviously picked up on one theme and mentioned a couple of others but do you see any other important themes in the readings?