Summary: This is a significant reworking for a baptism service of my sermon "Advent I: Hope is Coming"
November 30, 2008 – Advent 1 – "A Baptism at Advent"
There’s a story of a minister who like most ministers, conducted a lot of baptisms using the phrase, as we do, “In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost”. One weekend his family went to a friend’s home in the country.
Their four children went outside to play with the others. After a short while, they heard only silence and wondered what the children were up to. They were found behind a barn quietly playing "church."
Their 4-year-old daughter Susan was conducting the baptismal service. She held a cat over a barrel of water. Trying to be as solemn as her father, she repeated the phrase she had heard many times: "I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and in the hole he goes!"
Today is a very special day and, I think, a great way to begin the Advent season. Today, as you know, we are going to baptize
#__ people. Baptism is a public act where the person baptized affirms their faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, and where they make a public commitment to follow Jesus Christ. This is very, very important, and it signifies something that has already taken place in the life of the believer.
An answer has been given by the baptismal candidates to the gift of God’s grace, the gift of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. The gift of a life lived in service to our Saviour.
That answer is “Yes!”, and so in a little while we will celebrate that “Yes!” with those who will be baptized today.
Our advent passage today let’s us in on another “Yes!”, that was given to God in answer to an invitation into the life of God. It tells us of the first good-news promise, the first gospel-promise spoken and how a young girl responded to that gospel-promise. That gospel-call.
And that gospel-call, we discover, captivated a young girl’s, a girl named Mary’s, imagination; this gospel call captivated Mary’s heart. It was a story to be told in her flesh…and then to be lived out in infancy in her arms.
I’m going to ask __________ to read:
26 In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you." 29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. 31 You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end." 34 "How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?" 35 The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. 37 For nothing is impossible with God." 38 "I am the Lord’s servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me as you have said." Then the angel left her.
Mary’s response to this message is fascinating. Remember, Mary was a young girl… perhaps fourteen years of age. She was told by the angel that she would, while still a virgin, give birth to a son who she was to name Jesus. And this son was to be no ordinary son.
He would be called the Son of the Most High. He would possess the throne of king David forever, and the Kingdom He ruled would last forever. She was, at this tender age, to give birth to the Son of God. She was being invited into a vital role within God’s purposes.
She was being invited in a very real sense into the gospel, the good news of God’s redemptive love that was to be expressed in Jesus.
It is into this same gospel that those being baptized today have been called. Having received Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, each one will make a very public declaration in their baptism, this important external sign of a great inner life-commitment to Christ.