As we all came into church this morning we used the hand sanitiser by the door to cleanse ourselves. Also located by the West door in this, and many other churches, is a font. There is a very good reason that the font is placed by the door. It is because Baptism is how we enter the Church. Baptism therefore takes place where we come in, so that what we do is reinforced by the place where we do it.
We have come here today, in Christian fellowship, to participate in the Eucharist and to pour water over a child’s head in the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Before Jesus ascended to Heaven, He told His disciples to do these things. So for two thousand years Christians have gathered to pray together, to read the Bible, to baptize people, and to celebrate the Eucharist.
Before Jesus began His public ministry He was baptized by His cousin, John the Baptist in the River Jordan. To this day some Christians use rivers and streams to baptize, but that might be rather cold today! As Jesus emerged out of the water, the Gospels tell us that the Holy Spirit appeared in the form of a dove, and that God the Father spoke, saying, ‘This is my beloved Son, listen to Him’. And we do. And so we gather to welcome another child of God into the family of faith, which we call the Church. It is a truly happy occasion and a cause for genuine celebration. The past eighteen months have been a difficult and painful time for all of us, so to have something to celebrate is wonderful news indeed.
In our Baptism we are washed, freed from sin, and raised to new life in Jesus Christ. We are named, known, and loved by God, and become part of a family which extends across space and time, which we call the Church. In a few moments time we will have the newest Christian in the world right here among us, and if that is not a reason for celebration, then I don’t know what is!
Just as the parents and godparents make promises on behalf of this child, we are reminded of the promises which we made, or were made on our behalf. We give our prayerful support as part of a fellowship of faith which lives and grows together in love. Baptism is a public declaration of faith in God: of what we believe as Christians, and of how we live our new life together, as a community united by our shared relationship with God and each other. When we enter the Church through our Baptism we become part of a new family in which we are all brothers and sisters in Christ.
Unfortunately families don’t always get along all of the time. But when we say or do something wrong we say, ‘Sorry’, we try not to do it again, and we forgive each other, because we love each other. The Church is like any other family in this regard. Through Christ we know that God is love, and that God loves us. Jesus gives the Church Baptism and the Eucharist to share new life with us, and so that we can grow together in love and forgiveness. We read the Bible together, we are taught together, we say ‘sorry’ together to God and each other, we pray together, and we are nourished by the Eucharist together. And week by week, and year by year, these things change us, so that we become more and more like Jesus.
This journey begins with our Baptism, but it doesn’t end there. As we grow in faith in our lives, we develop. None of us are the same person we were two years ago. We are older, and wiser, and hopefully more loving and generous. These changes can be hard to see, but they do happen. Such gradual change is never going to make the headlines, but it is the key to living a Christian life. By living like Christ, with God’s help, and a lot of love and prayer, we are prepared for heaven. The rôle of the Church is to get us ready for Heaven, to spend eternity with the God who loves us. The support of our fellow Christians helps us to grow in love and faith, and as we do, to transform the world around us.
If we live lives characterised by love and forgiveness, it affects what we do, and who we are. By living out our faith in our lives we can change the world for the better. This is what Jesus came to teach humanity, and it is why we pray,
‘deled dy deyrnas, gwneler dy ewyllys; megis yn y nef, felly ar y ddaear hefyd.
thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.’
If we want God’s kingdom to be a reality, then we have to do God’s will, to help bring it about. We have each been invited to play our part, and to work together to make the world a better place. It is all about co-operation, with God, and with each other.
It is good that we are celebrating a christening on this the Feast of Christ the King, because it stresses the fact that Jesus, as God, is the supreme ruler of Heaven and Earth. We want to see His Kingdom come, so we do His will. We live lives of love, forgiveness, and generosity, because this is how God wants us to live. This is how we flourish as human beings. By doing so we help to make the Kingdom of God a bit more visible here on earth, and we are made ready for Heaven, where we hope to enjoy God’s love in His presence.
So let us all live out the full reality of our Baptism, and encourage others to join God’s family and do His will. Let us sing the praises of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. To whom be ascribed, as is most right and just, all might, majesty, glory dominion, and power, now and forever. Amen.