All welcome – babies and adults, parents and Godparents – a chance for anyone who has been christened at St Mary’s, whether in recent years or a long time ago, to come and celebrate together. Come and join us!
It’s okay to point!
On the 24 June each year the church celebrates the Birth of John the Baptist. Now, let’s be clear about one thing – we don’t actually know when John’s birthday was for sure but it isn’t just a random guess either. In the opening verses of Luke’s Gospel we find an account of the events that led up to the birth of Jesus, and alongside that we also are told about his cousin John. And from the dates that are described it seems as if that is how the 24 June was chosen. It comes three months after the celebration on March 25 of the Annunciation, when the angel Gabriel told Mary that her cousin Elizabeth was in her sixth month of pregnancy, and six months before the Christmas celebration of the birth of Jesus. It isn’t entirely clear why it ends up being 24 June rather than 25 June but it might be that this is because of the way the counting was done back from Christmas, rather than forward, that has shifted things by a day. Nonetheless, the purpose of these festivals is not to celebrate the exact dates of these events, but simply to commemorate them in an interlinking way.
And what that means is that if the birth of Jesus is important then the birth of John the Baptist is too. It acts as a kind of pre-cursor and ‘warm up’ for the main event and that fits with the way John lived and preached as well. He must have cut quite an odd figure with his camel hair shirt and a diet to rival any bush-tucker trial, but what was important wasn’t his appearance but his message.
His role seems to call people to repent of their sins, to be washed clean in the waters of the River Jordan and to turn to the ways of God. When questioned he was quick to deflect attention away from himself and point towards Jesus. And so when we think of John the Baptist we remember the way in which he was close to Jesus, that he baptised Jesus and urged people to live in the way that Jesus was teaching.
As we approach this date we’re going to use this as an opportunity to celebrate baptism with a special service (actually the day before) on Sunday 23 June. It will be a chance for anyone who has been christened at St Mary’s, whether in recent years or a long time ago, to come and celebrate together. It will be a chance to remember the fact that in our baptism we belong to Jesus and we belong to each other as part of God’s family, the church. There will also be the chance to celebrate the important privilege and responsibility that parents have in bringing up their children in the Christian faith. And in our prayers we will be giving thanks for Godparents and the special relationship they have with children who have been christened. We’re going to be inviting families who have had a christening in the last few years but anyone and everyone is welcome to come and share in the celebrations. We will follow the service with tea, coffee, cake and a chance to meet up with each other.
John’s role was to point us to Jesus so that we could become shaped by him and become more like him. That’s also the role for the church, and for parents and Godparents at a Christening. So perhaps, despite what my Mum told me, it’s okay to point…