First Sunday of Advent | Baptism of Amelia Jane
Awake, Pr. Fred Kinsey
We live in an in-between time, in this season of Advent. As a baptized people, we live in-between Christ’s first and second coming – (however you internalize that). We live in-between the resurrection of the Lord, and the promise of new life arising for all believers. We live in an-in-between time – having hope that “the kingdom of God will come on earth, as it is in heaven.”
All parents know what it’s like to live in an in-between time – waiting for the new life that is coming – the day when their child arrives. A birth or adoption, is the in-breaking of a whole new way of life for parents. And the waiting for that is an in-between time that is filled with hope and anticipation.
We have been preparing and waiting for ‘this day’ too, for the sacrament of Holy Baptism for Amelia Jane Flachsbart this morning. And like birth, and the coming realm and kingdom of God, the in-breaking of the Holy Spirit is wonderful gift we cannot wholly perceive, but when it arrives – changes everything! However prepared you want to be, the arrival, the coming, always bring the unexpected, just like, the days of Noah were when the normal everyday eating and drinking, and marrying were interrupted, and Noah and his family were suddenly living, in a house-boat! So can the in-between waiting-time for parents be swept away into a whole new life!
Not that I would know! I’m child-free! Though I have had times, mini-plunges, like taking care of my nieces and nephews, and more than a few youth retreats in my first call. And the literature, of course, abounds in stories of young parents being changed by the birth of a child, in surprising, and unpredictable ways. But of course, like grandparents, I could always return the children at the end of the day – or week, at the most. Anyway, I wouldn’t take offense, if you didn’t trust me as a parental expert!
But, for instance, what I’ve heard most new parents say is, the luxury of ‘sleep and a shower’ is something they can no longer afford after their child arrives. Infants sleep a few hours at a time, and then – if we’re real – mostly eat and poop in between, and that tends to change an adults’ normal routine!
No one can anticipate how all-consuming those early days, and years, of child care can be – but it’s like night and day! Your focus is your child now, instead of yourself, and that can be both beautiful, and frightening. Wonderfully beautiful for the miracle you hold in your hands, but a frightful fog in finding a new balance that includes your own personal needs, whether work, exercise, cooking, or, if you’re lucky, the occasional date night. Everything needs to be renegotiated, in the new realm called parenthood!
Some first time parents find a new appreciation for their parents. New mom, Kelly Johnson posted about this. “'Wow, so this is how much my mom loves me!' My love for my own child is so visceral,” she wrote, “it made me appreciate my own mom so much more.”
So much of life, is that in-between waiting-time, and then in an instant, everything can change overnight! As a second child myself, in a family of four, my mom always told me that my birth was way late. Like a week or ten days past my mom’s due date! But when the day finally arrived, she said, I came out really fast!
This season of Advent is about the in-between waiting time. Waiting in hope, and waiting for peace, for joy, and for love, to be born into our world. Like the anticipation of a new child, we don’t know when the 2nd coming of our Lord will be, exactly! “…about that day and hour no one knows,” says Jesus in our gospel reading, “neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”
And whether you believe in a literal Second Coming that could arrive any day, or some more gradual in-breaking of the reign of God, I think as a Baptized People we can stipulate, that we’re all living in an in-between time right now, before the time when heaven and earth are fully redeemed.
“Keep awake, therefore,” Jesus cautions, “for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.” That, keeping awake, being aware, appreciating the promise we have already in Christ Jesus, is our calling. I really appreciate the new phrase that has arisen thru social media these days about the importance of keeping awake – Stay woke, which really captures the urgency, I think! It’s a call to be in the moment and be awake to social injustice, especially the structural racism that continues to live in all our institutions. Like the anticipated in-breaking of the realm and kingdom of God, it’s a call to be aware! To get ready even now! This in-between waiting time is the time to keep awake and make preparations.
Our faith, says Jesus, is about keeping awake to the reality of what Christ has already inaugurated and birthed into our world and our lives, and the promise of God’s realm that is coming, through the grace of God, and through our lives, through the baptized, through the Body of Christ, and into this world God loves.
“43… understand this,” says Jesus, “if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. 44Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.” (Stay woke!)
Sometimes parents relax when they are expecting a 2nd child, understandably so, now that they come to it, with real firsthand experience. But second-time parents sometimes say they were surprised all over again, not prepared for a 2nd child that is so different from the first, as if they had to learn parenting techniques all over again.
I understand that Maddie, Amelia’s older sister, has been attentive and proud of her younger sister, since day one! She waited with patience, and is gentle, and protective, and helpful with Amelia. What a beautiful gift for parents to have! That too, may have arrived beyond expectations!
Keeping awake to the in-breaking of the realm and presence of God in our lives is no easy feat, but one made easier by the arrival, the 1st coming of Christ Jesus, a teacher and model of a life well lived, who fits us in our baptismal journey’s, for the kingdom of God we long for.
At this baptismal font, the fullness of God’s grace comes to Amelia and all the baptized, today, and arrives in the promised gift of the Holy Spirit, our Guide, each and every day, in this in-between time – awake in our waiting!