No doubt some of you are disappointed that we are not celebrating the Feast of the Epiphany today. We celebrated that on the 6th, the date when the Church celebrates the Epiphany of our Lord, because we are gathered today for a very special event. Probably a couple months after my arrival, Sophie began asking and then nagging me about baptizing her. Each week, as I laid my hands on her and blessed her, in place of giving her Communion, she would get this annoyed look on her face. Sometimes afterward, she would verbalize her displeasure. Though she comes to Advent with her grandmother, it was necessary in my mind that her parents’ consent to her desire to be baptized. So many decisions are made without parental consents these days, and I think the Church has no business wading into those activities. Maybe it is the right pastoral response for families today; maybe it is simply a father of seven railing against the trends of society. Time, I suppose, will tell.
In any event, during some our conversations about her desire to be baptized, Sophie would sometimes express a worry that she was missing something or that she was somehow in danger. Trying to remind a young girl, even a girl as precocious are our dear Sophie, that God knows the heart was quite a challenge! I learned from my discussions with her that she had similar ones with a number of people around here, particularly those who work with Children’s Chapel and with Godly Play. In many ways, you all who have worked with her over the years, who have answered her many questions, who have tried to channel her inquiring mind and enthusiasm into those areas of her life over which she had control, and who have nurtured her love of God, ought to be celebrating today, for you have recognized in her the truth of the prophet Isaiah.
Sophie, in some ways, today is incredibly unique. With your parents’ consent and support by their presence, you are being baptized into the family of God. Some in the world out there might want to teach you that the family of God has no problems, no miscreants, no sadness, and nothing of which ever to be ashamed. Those who have taught you, though, I think have done a good job. I think you have learned that God takes normal men and women, normal girls and boys, and works through them to grow His kingdom and to reveal Himself to the world around them. Today does not mark some specific day in history when you were protected from bad things by God. Quite the contrary. Today marks the day that you chose to call Him Lord, to be baptized into His death, to pick up your own cross and follow Him, and to trust that, from this day forward, no matter what happens to you, so long as you are faithful to Him, He will redeem you and give you a double portion share in His glory for all eternity. It is an amazing promise from an amazing God for a beloved daughter!
Perhaps those of you present have wondered about your own commitment. Perhaps you have wondered whether God really will redeem your suffering. Perhaps, you have never given the daily grind of life a second thought. Isaiah reminds us of our importance to God. “I have called you by name, you are Mine.” All of us who have been baptized into His death and raised with Him to new life share in the inheritance of Israel. It is likely that the prophet was speaking only of what you and I consider to be the Old Testament people of God. Certainly, His image of passing through the waters evokes memories of the Exodus through the Red Sea. We cannot help buy remember how He stopped the river Jordan as He ushered Israel into the Promised Land. Maybe the flame not consuming us reminds us of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. No doubt the call of the children from the east, west, north, and south speaks to the end of the Exile.
But, buried within the words of the prophet are also deeper words, words that sing to those of us who claim Him as Lord, the new Israel, of our future and our hope with Him! Raging waters speaks to the chaos of the world. God does not promise that chaos ends on that day when we call Him Lord. He promises only that the chaos will not overwhelm us and that He will be with us during those chaotic moments of life. Each one of us, including little Sophie this morning, are precious in His sight. The world may claim we are crazy, simple, gullible, stupid or worse, but the Lord, the Savior, has declared each one of us precious in His sight. Nothing, nothing can ever take us from Him or Him from our side. And even if the chaos of the world would seem to be victorious over us, we know better. Just as baptism marks our share in His death, so does it mark our share in His Resurrection! One day, as the prophet so beautifully declares, one glorious day, even if our death will cause it to seem to His enemies and ours that He and we lost, He will call us from the ends of the earth, all of us whom He formed and created for glory, to join Him for ever! “But now thus says the Lord, He who created you, O Jacob, He who formed you, O Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are Mine,” Sophie, and Mine, Adventers, now and for all eternity. That is the promise she is given this day, and that we all remember and celebrate in our life together. Amen!