Lullabies for Jesus (3rd Advent A)
“Lullabies for Jesus”
3rd Sunday in Advent, Year A
Baptisms of Carlos L. Jordan and Zamir J. Johnson
Canticle 15 (Luke 1:46-55)
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior; *
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed: *
the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him *
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm, *
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, *
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things, *
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel, *
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
The promise he made to our fathers, *
to Abraham and his children for ever.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: *
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.
Today we have the privilege of witnessing something holy and beautiful: the baptism of two precious children. Carlos Jordan and Zamir Johnson were both lovingly created by God. They have been brought into this church fellowship by their faithful parents and grandparents. And now they are both taking the next key step in their Christian journey.
Today they will be joined to Jesus Christ in his death and resurrection and marked as his own forever (BCP, p. 308). They will be empowered with the gift of the Holy Spirit of God. And they will become full members of the One, Holy, Catholic/Universal, and Apostolic Church. This is about something much bigger than just joining St. Matthew’s. They are joining the household of God (BCP, pp. 308).
And they are not entering God’s Household alone. As we will see through the Song of Mary (a prayer from Luke 1), Carols and Zamir will only grow in their faith if we support them with our prayers, teaching, and guidance. They are about to make a series of extraordinary promises that nobody can keep perfectly. But they will lean on God’s grace and this Christian community, the gift of other people.
Baptism is not the goal of the Christian life. We don’t baptize people and then abandon them. Baptism is the beginning. It’s where the love and grace of God begin to really intersect with our own lives. In just a few moments,, Carlos and Zamir will publicly declare that they accept Jesus as their Savior, put their whole trust in his grace, and promise to follow and obey him as their Lord (BCP, pp.302-303). More specifically, they will commit to the promises in the Baptismal Covenant on pages 6-7 of your bulletin [pages 304-305 of the Book of Common Prayer].
They believe the basics about God the Father, Jesus Christ, who is God the Son, and about God the Holy Spirit and the Church. The words of these paragraphs are from an ancient statement of faith called the Apostles’ Creed. And then we turn to some other promises rooting in the Bible and church tradition. They promise to stay rooted in the teaching and fellowship of the church and receive God’s grace through the breaking of bread, that is Holy Communion. They promise to resist evil, ask God and people for forgiveness when (not if) they fail, and repent, that is turn back toward godly behavior. They promise to share the Good News of Jesus with other people, to testify about the good things God has done in their own lives and invite others into that same grace and healing. They promise to see Christ in all people, to recognize that all people are created in the image of God and are therefore neighbors to be loved and honored, like they love and honor themselves. And finally they promise to strive for justice and peace on earth so that all people receive the dignity they deserve. The Christian life is active and full of challenges but also full of joy and hope.
Now I want to turn our attention toward one of the passages from the Bible that we just read. Our second selection is called the Song of Mary. It comes from Luke 1:46-55, and it is a song of praise, a prayer uttered by the Virgin Mary when she was pregnant with Jesus. Mary didn’t have the Book of Common Prayer 1979 or these beautiful words of the Baptismal Covenant to lean on in their faith journeys. But she did have the Scriptures of the Old Testament and she had their real life experiences of God.
Remember Mary’s story. She was a young unmarried woman, probably a teenager, from Nazareth. Her family arranged for her to marry a man named Joseph, who she might not have even known very well. And months before the wedding, an angel named Gabriel appears to her to tell her that she has been favored by God and is now pregnant with a special baby boy who will save Israel and save the world. One small detail: she has never been with a man and her fiancé will know it is not really his baby.
This puts Mary in an awkward position. So she takes a few months to visit her cousin Elizabeth and get away from the rumors and nastiness of her neighbors back home. When she arrived, she found that Elizabeth was pregnant too, with another special baby who would grow up to be John the Baptist. And that baby leapt for joy inside Elizabeth’s womb when Mary arrived. The women sang each other’s praises, laughed and cried on each other’s shoulders, and Mary began to pray the words of her famous song.
Go back and look at the words of Mary’s song. This prayer written by a woman has long been considered a word of prophecy. It has been saved into the Bible. It has been used in the church’s daily evening prayers for centuries. This is a prayer that all Christians are encouraged to read and pray and even memorize. Why do you think that is? Apart from its beautiful message what makes this prayer so remarkable?
We know that Mary sang this song before Jesus was born, when she was visiting her cousin Elizabeth. But what if Mary kept singing this song? What if this song was the lullaby she sang to baby Jesus as she rocked him to sleep? What if it was the song that she sang over twelve-year-old Jesus when she tucked him neatly into bed? What if she came back to this prophetic message in times of struggle and used this song as a source of hope, a reminder of God’s goodness in all times and places? What if Jesus was formed and shaped by the teaching and singing of his mother? What if his Gospel message didn’t only come from the inspiration of the Old Testament Scriptures and from Jesus’ Divine Nature, but also from the ministry and influence of his mother Mary?
Carlos and Zamir are about to enter the household of God, the Church, through this holy rite of baptism. Again, their Christian journey doesn’t end today; it’s just beginning. They are young; their lives are malleable and moldable. They are still becoming the people they will grow up to be. It is the specific responsibility of their parents and of Ms. Maggie Harper, their godmother, to instruct them in the faith of Jesus Christ. But actually, it is all of our responsibility as their brothers and sisters in Christ to show them Jesus’ Way.
All parents, godparents, and Christian mentors can learn from the life of St. Mary. Mary taught her son to magnify and proclaim the greatness of the Lord. Mary taught her son that God is merciful to every generation. Mary taught her son that God brings justice to the world, punishing the proud, bringing down those who elevate themselves on thrones (literal and metaphorical), and raising up the lowly. Mary taught her son that God will feed the hungry and teach the rich that they have more than enough to share. Mary taught her son that God has been faithful to all the promises that began with Abraham and Sarah, Moses and Miriam, and all the prophets. Mary taught her son, and we can do the same with our children.
So as we turn our attention toward performing baptism with Carlos and Zamir, let’s commit ourselves more fully to our role as guides and mentors in the faith. Let’s commit to praying for them. Let’s commit to teaching them how to pray. Let’s commit to showing them that the God we serve us mighty, loving, fair, and gracious. Let us tell out from our souls the greatness of the Lord. And may our lives be a witness and an encouragement to all. Amen.