11.29.2011

What Does Baptism Have To Do With Christmas?








Normally I wouldn’t put the two together, but right before Thanksgiving, our church celebrated baptism, and I found a point of connection.



Different churches and denominations celebrate baptism in various ways. Some churches baptize infants, others youth and adults. Some denominations sprinkle with holy water; others immerse the baptizee in a lake or pool of water.



Our church baptizes by immersion those who have chosen to follow Christ and to trust in Him for forgiveness of sins, following the examples of John the Baptist, the early disciples and even Jesus Himself.


For many years, I confess I was not entirely enthusiastic during the baptism services. It usually extended the length of the service, and even though I knew it was supposed to be a deeply moving sacrament, I didn’t feel moved watching strangers go down and come up out of the water.


In the last couple of years, however, our church has changed the way we celebrate baptism. We still immerse people in a small pool on the stage, and the services still run longer than usual. But baptism is now integrated right into our worship time, and as we sing songs about God redeeming us, restoring us and forgiving us, camera lenses zoom in on faces, still unrecognizable to me, but each with a story of a changed life. And each story matters to God. As each person goes down and comes up out of the water, people all over the auditorium cheer and clap, and the joy is palpable.


As each baptizee steps out of the water, he/she is wrapped in an oversized, white towel, and these dripping wet followers of Jesus form a community of saints, forgiven, radiant, washed clean. Then, our pastor invites friends and family members to join them on stage, to celebrate and show their support.



The scene is absolutely beautiful: a reunion,

a full-on party, a homecoming.


And at this recent baptism service, as hundreds of people crowded on the water-puddled stage, we sang these words by Chris Tomlin:



Here is our King; Here is our Love

Here is our God who’s come to bring us back to Him

He is the One, He is Jesus


Is there a connection between baptism and Christmas? Absolutely.



I don’t know if it’s because my church changed the way we do baptism, or if it’s more the result of a change in me, but now I see it. The connection. I’m engaged, and I am moved. Because God came into our world – the one He created – Because the Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us, we are saved. We are forgiven, made new, transformed. Because of this baby born over two thousand years ago to a surrendered girl around the same age as my seventh grade daughter, because of this King who came not to be served, but to serve, and because of this Man who gave His perfect life for me, defeating death and the grave, I am forever changed.



Here is our King; Here is our Love
Here is our God who’s come to bring us back to Him
He is the One, He is Jesus

As we enter this advent season, preparing our hearts for the coming of Jesus, may we be opened to His amazing, unfailing love for us.


Merry Christmas.
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