Welcome + Worship + Witness

Rector: Baptism of Hugo and Olivier Hague

Sunday 28 November 2021
Advent Sunday

Sung Eucharist
Revd Nicholas Mercer

Today is Advent Sunday

It seems to get earlier every year,

However, whenever it falls, it marks the beginning of the Church Year

It is also the day on which we also baptise Hugo and Olivier

So it is a new beginning for all of us

(I suspect that very few of us know the date on which we were baptised

But Hugo and Olivier should always be able to remember the day

It is Advent Sunday

Something they should be able to remember throughout their lives – and for that we give thanks this morning)

As many of you know, we normally have our baptism services after the main Sunday service

This is not unreasonable as we baptise many people during the course of the year and, if we had a baptism in the middle of every service, it would not be fair on the congregation

However, when I heard that we had a baptism on Advent Sunday, I thought that this was a suitable occasion to combine the two

Because, in my view, there are some interesting parallels

First of all

The Season of Advent is about waiting for the coming of Christ into the World

Today we start a four week season in which we, as a Church, watch for the coming of Christ at Christmas

It is a time of looking forward

Looking forward to that day “when creation is renewed and Christ’s reign becomes manifest and universal”

This has a parallel with the spiritual life of Hugo and Olivier

Who, like the rest of us, now also await for that time

And will be reminded of this whenever they attend an Advent Service

Secondly,

Waiting for Christ to come at Christmas means that we are all on a journey

A journey through time over the next four weeks, to see the Christ Child

Whose birth we celebrate on Christmas Day

To remind ourselves of this journey we introduce some different rituals into the Church Service

The most prominent being the Advent Wreath

During Advent, we start each service for the next four weeks by lighting a candle and saying a prayer as we did today

But why do we have an Advent Wreath?

The origins are obscure

But, whatever the origins, the Advent Wreath is a sort of clock

A clock which marks out the weeks

Although there are different interpretations, one of them is that the four candles represent

· The prophets

· Mary and Joseph [on their way to Bethlehem]

· Shepherds

· Angels

With a white candle in the middle representing Christ

It is known as the “Christ candle” which is lit on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day

This is the story of our faith

One which we tell each year, not least in our service of Nine Lessons and Carols

And the story which the parents and Godparents will tell to Hugo and Olivier

And which Hugo and Olivier will learn like all baptised Christians before them

Thirdly

The final thing we remind ourselves of in the Advent journey is the destination itself

The final candle to be lit is the Christ candle

That is not only where we journey during Advent but where we journey throughout our lives

When we will all be united with Christ himself

And in the light of this destination, I think there is a different way of looking at the Advent Wreath and its five candles

The first is Baptism

And the second is Confirmation

(And I would like all the Godparents to walk with Hugo and Olivier at least to their confirmation)

The third candle is Ordination – and I would like both Hugo and Olivier to be ordained

The fourth candle is our death

I remember being told as a schoolboy that death was our final initiation into the Church

And found the idea so very exciting

The fifth candle, of course, is Christ himself

And this is the final destination for each and every one of us –

Irrespective of our earthly lives or even what we may have come to believe

Hugo and Olivier start their journey of faith today

And we welcome them on our Advent journey

A journey, not only to Christmas but from darkness into light

With the light of Christ to help illumine our pathway

At the end of the service we will present Hugo and Olivier with a candle to represent the light of Christ

And remind ourselves that we too walk in this light throughout our lives

And we wish God’s blessing on Hugo and Olivier and all here assembled as we do so