So when does the church proclaim the new year? Typically it is the first Sunday in Advent. However, the scriptures seem other than joyous. On the recent First Advent, the Gospel was from Mark. Jesus said to his disciples, “In those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.” Nope, doesn’t make it
I would make a case for the Sunday after the Epiphany, Jesus’ baptism. This is Mark’s birth story since he didn’t write one for Bethlehem.
This past Sunday the Old Testament was the creation story from Genesis for the world. God is no stranger to giving birth. At the beginning, God gives birth to creation itself, creating heaven and earth out of a formless void, the deep, the shapeless face of the waters. In our scripture “Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good;”
This year the church was drenched in light when Elizabeth read the story from Genesis
Birth is the beginning of the earth and our times through baptism. The Gospel reading from Mark also represents for Jesus birth since it is the beginning of his ministry.
Both Genesis and Mark work together. Mark’s scripture which noted that Jesus “will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” At his baptism, Jesus doesn’t have to do anything, but rather simply receives the gift of the Holy Spirit and of God’s favor. Indeed, it is a powerful word of acceptance, identity, blessing, and commitment. The scripture sets out the beginning of the new year.
Our baptisms are also our birth stories. God calls us into a new creation—at our baptisms, God calls us in and welcomes into the loving womb water in which the Trinity resides, so that we too can grow up into love, complete and inseparable from God.
As was noted by Cookie and others today our baptismal font is unusual in that it is placed at the center of the altar as baptism is at the center of our Christian life.
This one minute video of our baptismal font with the stained glass light streaming in.
Everything is in motion- new or in renewal. Today we enjoyed a new heating system for the church as the older one ended its life at the end of last year.
Baptism represents our job description as Christians in the baptismal covenant which we recited today:
- Worship and Formation –”Will you continue in the Apostles’ teaching and fellowship, the breaking of the bread, and in the prayers? “
- Repentance and Reconciliation –”Will you resist evil, and whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord? “
- Evangelism. “Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of Jesus Christ? “
- Outreach. “Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself? “
- Stewardship “Will you be a faithful steward of all that God has entrusted to you, living a life of gratitude and generosity? “
- Advocacy. Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being”
The Baptism service continues with prayers and then the Thanksgiving over water Marion Hatchett, in the Commentary on the American Prayer Book, says that “the prayer recalls the waters of creation, the exodus, and the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River, and portrays the font, in the classical manner, as a bath, a womb and a tomb. ”
“And then I mark the newly baptized with the sign of the cross. This marking is a reminder that through baptism, through the action of the Holy Spirit, we are marked as Christ’s own forever.”
The closing hymn “We know that Christ is raised” last two stanzas are about baptism with us as new creations
“The God of splendor clothes the Son with life.
The Spirit’s fission shakes the church of God.
Baptized, we live with God the Three-in-One. Alleluia!
“A new creation comes to life and grows
as Christ’s new body takes on flesh and blood.
The universe, restored and whole, will sing: Alleluia!”
Tom’s sermon emphasized there are a number of beginnings in the Bible which are part of revelation of God leading up to baptism.
He added the following about baptism “What Jesus brought then on that on that occasion was that in his baptism was a new understanding of what it to be in relationship with God even another new understanding with the history of God’s movement from just the mass of creation to creation of life and creation of human awareness to the coming of the Holy Spirit and the fulfillment of the divine life. Christ is the fulfillment of the divine life”
Tom’s sermon ended with the sense of newness that the new year brings on. “So as we begin this this new year let’s do so with hope in our hearts and real sense of the unfolding of God’s purposes in the world we don’t know what they are yet exactly but we know they’re going to be magnificent just look at what’s already happened – the creation the beginning of life, human awareness of one another human awareness of the presence of God, human begin being transformed by the power of God, it’s all in the line God’s of holy purposes in the world. Personally. I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen next!”
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