Sunday is the 4th Sunday of Advent. We will baptize two children that morning.
I'm tempted sometimes, when there is a baptism, to say, "there will be no sermon. The baptism IS the sermon this morning." And I mean REALLY tempted. Compared to the parents and the children and the sponsors standing there, compared to the water being poured, compared to the prayer remembering God's mighty acts, and the words, "Alice, Michael, Emily, Matthew.... I baptize you in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit" -- compared to this, what are all of my words? Compared to the cross traced in oil and the candle given, "Let your light so shine before others." compared to all of this, the words of my sermon often seem tame.
Baptism is wild. Something is happening. We can see and hear and touch it, or at least some of it. Underneath the things we see, something more is happening.
God is with us.
I met with the parents on Monday and we remembered all of the things that God promises in baptism: safe passage as on the ark, death and resurrection, a new birth, adoption into God's family. God promises that we will be clothed with God's righteousness, that we will be a part of God's new creation, that we will be grafted into the living vine, which is Jesus.
All of these things are happening. When we see the water poured, when we feel the oil on our heads, when we hear the words, we catch a glimpse, but only a glimpse.
This is the 4th Sunday of Advent. Something is happening. Mary is going to have a baby. It is a surprise to Joseph, and not a good surprise. I always think that the promise of a baby is good news, but that is not always the case. Sometimes the baby is bad news. Sometimes the news is mixed. Joseph knows that this baby is trouble.
It's true. Jesus is trouble. He is also Emmanuel -- God with us. He will save us from our sins. And he will get us into trouble, for his sake.
Sometimes when I have a baptism on Sunday I am tempted to say, "There will be no sermon this morning. The baptism is the sermon." But I never do.
Maybe what I should say is this: Here's what the baptism means. God is with us. God is with us and this baptism means that God will never let go of us. That's how good his promises are.
But that's not all. God is with us and he gives us this mission -- and that mission will get us into trouble. Sharing the love of Jesus is not for the faint-of-heart.
The angel says to Joseph, "Don't be afraid." There is going to be trouble, but God is in it. Maybe that's what we should say before baptisms too: don't be afraid.
Baptism is wild.
Christmas is wild, too. Because Jesus is coming.