In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah:
“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.’”
John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. Matthew 3:1-6When I was a baby, my parents, as was the custom of their church, had me baptized. I don't remember anything about it. I do remember my youngest brother being baptized in the same church. I remember it because he threw up on the pastor. At least that's how I remember it, I was only six.
Years later, when I was a teenager, I was asked if I was going to "join" the church. I was puzzled. I had assumed that I had always belonged to the church, why would I have to "join" it? Well, I was a teenager, head strong and (like teens everywhere) I knew everything there was to know. So I declined.
When I was old enough to make my own decisions, even if they were bad decisions, I stopped going to church. My mother didn't like that at all, neither did my Dad. He was pretty adamant, declaring that I would do as my mother wished and go to church. When I asked him why he didn't go, except at Christmas and Easter, the argument was over.
Many, many years later (and I have told this story before), The Missus Herself was out and about in our wee town by the bay and came across a small stone chapel adjacent to the Town Common. (Yes, we have one of those, the town retains some of its Colonial charm.)
She sat on the front steps for a while, then came to a decision. Checking the board out front for the time of Sunday services, she went home. When I came home from work, she informed me that we would, as a family, be attending church that Sunday. That was back in 1999 I think, though it might have been 2000 as well. I don't remember all of the details of that time as I was still adjusting to the civilian world.
Did I protest her decision? Of course I did. Did I eventually shut the heck up and do as she bid me? Of course I did.
We went, as a family. The Naviguessor was off at college, but The Nuke and The WSO were still at home. They too did as their mother commanded.
A few years went by, our pastor, Fred, a dear friend, retired and a new fellow took over. One day after church I casually mentioned that we'd like to join the church. (The circle now being complete I guess.)
He asked us if we wished to be baptized, I, thinking of that baptism I had had as an infant, started to answer, "No." That's when the love of my life jumped in and indicated that, "Yes, we wish to be baptized. Both of us."
"We do?" I asked, somewhat puzzled.
"Yes, we do." spake the lady of the house, giving me "The Look."
"Um, yes, Pastor, yes, we'd both like to be baptized."
And so we were. On the 2nd of February in the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand and Three. Now have I mentioned that the church we joined is a Baptist Church? No? Well, it is. And one thing that Baptists fully believe is necessary is a full-immersion baptism. Not a simple cleansing of one's brow, oh no. For us it's into the water. All the way into, and under, the water.
Now this was February. A cold February as I recall. The place of our baptism would be inside the church itself, we have a baptismal font (a rather small pool really) underneath where the choir sits. We can even fill it with warm water, which is a nice thing to have.
Now our baptism was held in the evening, another couple, and the pastor's wife were also being baptized. So on a dark and cold evening in February, The Missus Herself and I went forth to be baptized.
It was an amazing experience, the flickering candles, the words of the Scripture, and the presence of my family all made it a nearly overwhelming experience. (All of the progeny were there, along with The Naviguessor's lady of that time, my Mom and Dad, and both of my brothers as I recall.)
So in I went, something of a barbarian, and out I came, newly washed. Spiritually at any rate. Though the water was nice and warm, the air inside that old stone chapel (built in 1814) was not warm at all. In fact, it was pretty chilly.
Down the stairs behind the baptismal font I went to what was the pastor's office at the time. I don't think I have ever dried off and gotten dressed as fast as that night. Not before and certainly not since.
I still marvel at that evening. There was something in the air that night. I want to say the Holy Spirit was present, perhaps, perhaps not. But I felt, something.
And that is the story I share with you on this second Sunday of Advent.
I have been ever grateful for that new beginning. Perhaps the country might experience that as well. It is time to return to God.
Have a Blessed Sunday.
Let nothing ye dismay...