RCL Year C Advent 2
Baruch 5:1-9, Canticle 16: The Song of Zechariah, Philippians 1:3-11,
Saint Luke 3:1-6

Today two similar, but finally different things, are right before our eyes. We have Christian Baptism, which we shall administer to Jace Alexander in a few minutes. And we have the baptism of John for the repentance of sins in the Gospel today. They are similar, but finally they are different things.

In the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel you may read: “But if the wicked turn away from all their sins…they shall surely live.” That is Ezekiel 18:21. Turning away from one’s sins is necessary for the forgiveness of those sins. That is the truth that Ezekiel proclaimed, and that is the truth that John the Baptist proclaimed in today’s Gospel. You heard in the Gospel that John proclaimed a baptism, a ceremonial washing, “of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.”[1] He brings people to repentance in order that their sins may be forgiven. He is in the line of Ezekiel and other Old Testament prophets. In fact, we may say, and you may have heard it said before, that John the Baptist is the last of the Old Testament prophets. Their message is consistent, and their message is consistent with Christianity: repentance is necessary for forgiveness. That is the similarity between John’s baptism and Christian Baptism.

But, I said they are in the end different. And here is the difference. You will soon hear these words: “We thank you, Father, for the water of Baptism. In it we are buried with Christ in his death. By it we share in his resurrection. Through it we are reborn by the Holy Spirit.”[2] You are free to see the water of Baptism as a ceremonial washing away of sins, just like John’s baptism. But Christian Baptism is something more. It is full initiation, full adoption, into Christ’s Body, into the Church. The bond established in Baptism is indissoluble. It cannot be broken.[3] We are Baptized into Christ’s death, and we are Baptized into his resurrection. Christ’s death and Christ’s resurrection become the unbreakable pattern for our physical and spiritual lives. And as we live and repeat that pattern throughout our lives, still repentance is necessary for forgiveness. Each of us is given opportunity after opportunity to repent and to be forgiven. All of this is true about us, and it is about to become the pattern for Jace’s life as well.

I am sure you have noticed in the past that babies have absolutely no choice about their Baptism. Some of them and Jace, also, may be carried to the water of Baptism literally kicking and screaming. Today they may resist to the maximum of their little and pitiable strength. But we Baptize them anyway. We Baptize them, and we Baptize Jace, because their and his parents and godparents promise to see that the child they “present is brought up in the Christian faith and life.” His parents and godparents also promise to help him to grow into the full stature of Christ.”[4]

Jace’s choice, his decision, will come later. When his own will has developed, he will have the opportunity every minute of every day to choose to be Christ’s own forever. The choice will be his, as it is yours, and as it is mine. Most especially he can declare his choice to be Christ’s own forever by presenting himself to the Bishop for Confirmation.

It isn’t too much to say that if he does choose to be Christ’s own forever, that he will “put on the robe of the righteousness that comes from God,”[5] as you heard in the Lesson from Baruch. You, I, and he can make that choice every single day of our lives.

[1] Saint Luke 3:3.

[2] BCP, page 306.

[3] BCP, page 298.

[4] BCP, page 302.

[5] Baruch 5:2.