Subtitle: A single, simple theological and liturgical observation in the season of Advent
John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins (Mark 1.4)
The baptism John proclaimed and practiced was that of his day and time – a demonstrable and repeatable outward act signifying one’s desire, one’s determination to change, being cleansed of sin and recommitted to following God’s Law in preparation for the coming of the Messiah.
How different, how vice-versable is the baptismal practice of the Christian church; proclaiming that forgiveness of sins is solely an act of God’s initiation to which repentance is the human response and baptism, the once-for-all-time expression.(1)
At first, even second glance, this, it seems to me, is no grand surprise. History is replete with examples of the modification of traditions inherited or adopted from a prior times and places.
Still, as a Christian, as I continue to prepare myself spiritually for the coming Christmas celebration, I am grateful for having the belief and, in that belief, the knowledge that there is nothing I can do on my own, even my repentance, that deserves, much less demands God’s forgiveness. Truly, I believe and know that God, who is Love, alway is ready, far more ready to forgive than I am to repent.
So, I pray: O Lord, my God, believing, knowing that you are Love and that, as Love, you forgive, may I, in gladsome response, alway hasten to repent. Amen.
(1) Here, I do acknowledge that within the realm of Christendom’s denominations, there have been and are a variety of baptismal practices, in some places and in some cases, commending and calling for re-baptism.
Illustration: St. John the Baptist baptizes the people, Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665)