Welcome + Worship + Witness

The Rector: The Baptism of Christ

First Sunday of Epiphany
12 January 2020
10.30 Eucharist

Revd Nicholas Mercer

You will note from the inside of the Church that the Christmas decorations have all been taken down

No more Christmas tree, Advent Crown and Crib

Christmas is over

The Wise men have seen the Christ Child and they have journeyed home from whence they came 

There is, perhaps, a feeling of disappointment

However, like all birthdays, once the party is over, the next phase begins

And we now turn our attention to Baptism

The first Sunday after Epiphany marks the Baptism of Christ

And what better day in the Church calendar to conduct a baptism during a service?

Presents to celebrate the birth of the child have been given and received and we now turn our attention to the rest of Toby’s life

The service today marks a new chapter, the beginning of his spiritual life

In the Anglican Church, we practise infant baptism for the very good reason

First, households were baptised in the New Testament and it is not unreasonable to assume that this included children

And to suggest that children do not have a spiritual life would be absurd

Jesus said “suffer little children to come unto me for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”

Something which we all need to reminded of from time

But as well as being the start of Toby’s spiritual life

This service reminds us that, we too, journey on the same road

In the main, we too will all have been baptised and our journeys are well under way

Most of us are nearer the end than the beginning

But like everything in life, it is worth reminding ourselves from whence we came, the vows which were made on our behalf and where we are travelling

This service of baptism is, not just for Toby and his family, but for all of us as the baptised people of God

Baptism is one of the sacraments of Church

In other words it is a sacred mystery

But, like all mysteries, they are not easy to understand

The Fifth century Pope, St Leo the Great said that

“He who was visible as our Redeemer has now passed into the sacraments”

At the Eucharist, the outward and visible signs are the bread and the wine-

But the reality is the Body and Blood of our Lord

So too with Baptism

Outwardly, there is a washing with water

Whilst, inwardly, there is a cleansing from sin and receipt of the Holy Spirit

Sacraments are like the Church-

There is an outward and visible building which contains an inward and spiritual grace

In the sacraments, the Church takes material things such as water, oil, bread and wine and makes them into a vehicles of the Holy Spirit

We are reminded of these material things in our reredos

Where we see barley, vine and olive in the plants that have been so beautifully painted

The barley and the vine remind us of the bread and wine which become the body and blood of our Lord at the Eucharist

The vine reminds us of oil which is used for anointing

 But just as our Lord took material form in the incarnation, conveying the Holy Spirit

So too in baptism with water and oil

Through water we receive forgiveness of our sins whether original or actual

Through the signing of the cross with oil, we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit

And through water and oil together we become members of laity (laos) or people of God

Baptised children are part of the people of God and rank alongside us, equally, in the Church

I was in a previous parish where there was a retired General in our ranks

I loved the fact that the newly baptised was of the same rank immediately after baptism

Toby joins our ranks today

And we welcome Toby, his parents, godparents and family and all those who join us today for this service

The laity or people of God sit in the nave of the Church

This gives us another military metaphor

Because, it comes from the word navis in Latin meaning a ship

What better metaphor for the grandchild of a naval officer?

Look up at the ceiling and you can see what looks like the bottom of a ship

This life in the Church is now the vessel in which Toby will travel – in which we all travel as members of the Church

Through our earthly life until we comes, at last, to God’s heavenly kingdom

But, like any journey, we need help along the way

The first help we receive is from the godparents

You have kindly agreed to walk with Toby on his journey

I am grateful to you for undertaking this duty on behalf of your Godchild

Ideally, you should walk with and support until Him until he is 18, however, I would like you to accompany him to ordination

When I was 48, two of my Godparents came to my ordination at Salisbury Cathedral in 2011

It is impossible to judge how much help he will need but be attentive and have no fear in intervening when you believe it is necessary to do so

Your cards for Godparents remind you on the duties you have agreed to undertake on behalf of Toby

We also give you a fridge magnet- not as a souvenir, but to enable you to put your card on the fridge

Secondly, and so obviously, you are supported by Christ himself

Christ is called the light of world

We have made great store of this during Advent and Christmas

At Advent we light the Advent Crown and at Christingle, there is a candle in the middle of the orange

As all of us know, there can be a great deal of darkness in this world

  • Darkness in our politics,
  • Darkness in our understanding,
  • Darkness in our lives

But the light of Christ will help you find your way in the world

In recognition of this fact, Toby will receive a lighted candle at the end of the service

This symbolises the fact that Christ can illuminate our darkness and help us all find our way in a darkened world

Thirdly, as with all God’s people, we are supported by the Holy Trinity

 Our baptism is Trinitarian

At the font I will say

“I baptise you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”

The word font comes from Latin fons, fontis meaning source

God is the source of all our being 

Jesus is the “light of the world”

And the Holy Spirit is our strength and Comforter

 Our baptism, at the font, is the source of all our lives here on earth

And will sustain you throughout your life

And so on this special day Toby

As you join the company of all faithful people along with all the congregation

As become part of the people of God

You become part of a Royal Priesthood

You start your journey in faith and we welcome you and your family

Above all, we ask that

Just as made manifest in the baptism of our Lord

May the Father, Son and Holy Ghost support you and all God’s baptised people for the rest of your life on earth