Leslie’s Musings November-December 2019
“Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,
which means, ‘God is with us.’” Matthew 1:23
It’s almost time for Advent! As you may realize, our liturgical year ends around the end of November, and then we’re off to a new main Gospel for the next year—in this case, we’re moving from Luke to Matthew. It’s a way for us to hear the stories of Jesus’ life and ministry from different perspectives. Luke’s language tends to be poetic. The author of Matthew focuses more on salvation. Early in, we find Jesus at his baptism—his first act of ministry. By the time the Gospel finishes, the resurrected Jesus commands his followers to baptize all nations—not just Jews but also Gentiles—in the name of the Trinity. Baptism bookends Jesus’ ministry.
As we remember every time we baptize a child of God, the act of pouring water on someone is a sacramental death; a willingness to stop the life of sin, hatred, greed, and the like, and to put on the clothes of righteousness. As Isaiah says so beautifully in chapter 2:4,
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.
The anticipation of the Prince of Peace calls for a renewal of our baptismal covenant. We set aside our sinful behavior and clothe ourselves with righteousness, faithfulness, equity, harmony, steadfastness and encouragement, unity, joy, fearlessness, and the willingness to be led by a Child—all words found in the four weeks of Advent scripture readings.
Advent is, by definition, a season of waiting for what is to come. The darkening days ask us to slow our thoughts, to delve deeply into our thoughts and motivations, and to consider what it means to follow a humble Savior, the polar opposite of the mighty Roman warrior. The one who turns a weapon of war into a weapon against hunger and poverty. The one who warns us to keep awake, to bring healing to those who need it. The one who will die to let us live. Are we willing to be part of his baptism and ministry?
Be faithful and loving and strong. Meanwhile, I’ll see you in church.