It may seem strange and a bit peculiar to be celebrating a baptism in Advent. In many ways this is an odd time for a baptism. We are in the middle of preparing ourselves and lives for Christmas. Through our liturgy and readings from Scripture during Advent we feel the tension in the air as we wait with anticipation for God to come into the world in the person of Jesus. So, what does baptism have to do with any of this anyway, you may well ask? Every Advent, at some point or another, and sometimes more than once in Advent, we read about John the Baptist. John is the one who comes to the world as a prophet. He is the one who foretells of the coming of Jesus. Although he never names Jesus. He is, however, the voice in the wilderness who cries the prophecy from Isaiah, “Prepare the way of the Lord” (Luke 3: 4). This is the same John, who in the same proclamation continues today to talk about the meaning of Baptism. There is something here, intricately linked between Baptism and Advent.
Let us listen again to what John is talking about in today’s gospel. John is talking about sharing resources, the food we have and clothing we wear being among many resources that we can easily share. John answers the tax collectors’ question about money, “Collect no more than the amount prescribed to you” he says. (Luke 3: 13) All of this seems quite reasonable, doesn’t it?
But all what John is saying can be really hard work. We live in a culture that in many ways teaches us that more is best. Success, it seems, is measured by how many processions we may have or how much money we have at our disposal. Even our ‘busyness’ can be a measure of success. We can’t help but think, the busier we are, the more we are seen and perceived to be doing well, connected and successful. So, we cram our schedules and time with things to do, because we too are important and have things on the go. Or that’s what the theory is anyway.
It is into this context, a culture and world that demands more of our time, energy and resources that the prophet’s words today have particular resonance for us. Without really saying it directly, John, is talking about what is enough in our lives. That seems to be a very foreign word to many - ‘enough’. What does enough mean and what does it look like? I don’t know about you, but I sometimes can’t help thinking, “Okay, I understand the concept of enough, but what about the unexpected? What about planning and preparing for the ‘what if’ situations that inevitably come up unexpectedly?” Before I even realize it, ‘more’ is added to the shopping cart.
John is talking to us about a way of life that is radically different. A way of life that is meant to change lives and the world. Instead of having a mindset of ‘more,’ John lays the foundation of what we know as a theology of abundance. We know this theology already. Theology of Abundance teaches us that we already have enough for what we need, with more than enough to share. Sound familiar? John proclaims that there is someone coming who is going to show us how to live into a theology of abundance - so start practicing!
This way of life is directly linked to our baptism and the promises we make in baptism. Each candidate, or sponsors on the candidate’s behalf, make promises that talk about committing to a different way of being in the world. In baptism we make promises and we renew our commitment to safeguard the integrity of the earth. To treat people with respect and integrity. We promise to pattern our lives after Christ and resist forces of evil that serve to take us out of the Body of Christ and relationship with God. This should be quite familiar and reasonable to us so far. This, my friends, is what it means to live into a theology of abundance, a way of being in the world that invites us to put others first before ourselves. Imagine that. I wonder what the world would look like, if everyone placed the needs of others before their own.
This is the world we are preparing for, waiting with anticipation and excitement; for when God will make all things whole and restore a right balance within the world. This is the cry of the prophets of old; this hope of the world; this is God’s mission that we are invited into. So, let us, once again commit ourselves and one another to being in right relationship with each other and with God as we welcome and celebrate with Olivia her Baptism as she, with the help of her parents and God parents, prepare and enter a new way of being in the world.