I’d like to concentrate on today’s passage from Psalm 27: what a wonderful passage for a baptism! The Lord is my light and my salvation, the passage begins. This is a passage about the love and support of God even when things look bleak: The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? He will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble. Well, we are here today to claim those promises for Charlotte, Lilly-Mae, Kirsty and Chloe as they are baptised in front of family and friends and this community of faith.
So are any of you having a celebration after the baptism? Well, you can’t have a celebration without a party bag! This party bag will help us to understand what’s going on in this service. So, let’s have a look. What’s in the bag?
1) Water and soap. What do we use water for? Drinking, cooking and cleaning: are we going to use water this morning? How? So, is it cooking? Drinking? No, it’s a symbol - a sign if you like - of cleansing. The water of baptism is a symbol of a fresh start, of washing away the past and all that goes with it. A spring-clean of the soul if you like so although we aren’t really going to scrub down Chloe, Libby-Mae, Kirsty and Charlotte with soap, that also stands for our fresh start as we come symbolically clean from our baptisms.
2) A bus. What’s that for? Well this is another symbol: a symbol of setting out on a journey. What journey? Well, today marks the start of a journey for Kirsty, Chloe, Lilly Mae and Charlotte, a journey of faith; the start of a journey in the Christian life. And I chose a bus because it’s not a journey we undertake on our own. We start this journey today with one another, with family, Godparent, friends and this community to support us. So how do we know where we are going?
3) A Sat-Nav. What’s this for? It guides us in the right direction. Now any drivers here this morning will know that we can set off on a journey confident that we know the way – and then we get lost. My trusty sat-nav makes sure I get to my destination safely by the best route. It also makes sure I stay out of trouble and don’t drive faster than I should. In life’s journey we can go with or without a sat nav but Christians believe that through baptism we have the extra resource of God’s Holy Spirit to show us the way, to guide us, to lead us and to help us to stay out of trouble. Of course we can still decide we want to follow our own route, but without relying on the Holy Spirit’s guidance we run the risk of going in the wrong direction and making mistakes.
4) A bottle of perfumed oil. Where have we already used oil this morning? What did we do with it? It’s called anointing and it’s quite an ancient tradition: kings and queens are anointed at their coronation so it’s something we do for special people on a special occasion. Jesus was called “The Anointed One” and we use anointing to show that someone has been consecrated. That’s a fancy word and it simply means that the person who has been anointed has been given to God. Today we anointed Charlotte, Chloe, Libby Mae and Kirsty with the sign of the cross, the symbol of Jesus.
5) A heart. Well, last Sunday was Valentine’s Day, so what does the heart stand for? It’s a symbol of love, but not just our love for one another: it’s also a sign of God’s love for us. We believe that God loves each of us dearly and although He has that love for us all the time we can be sure that that love is very real today as we come for baptism. Today we join God in celebrating and rejoicing.