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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Monday, December 17, 2018

Today’s Scripture Reading | Luke 3:1–6     

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’” (NRSV)

John’s proclamation of a “baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” prior to the establishment of the Christian church is intriguing. After all, baptism is the sacrament through which people become Christian, so it doesn’t seem to make sense to be talking about baptism prior to Jesus’ death and resurrection. What could John have meant?

As it turns out, Christianity doesn’t have exclusive rights to the word baptism, which can more broadly mean “an experience through which one is purified, sanctified, or initiated.” If I read this as John telling people to get purified and prepare for the coming of God’s Son, it makes more sense.

I sometimes find myself disappointed that baptism is something we only get to do once; there is something powerful in making a public declaration of faith. Fortunately, I’ve found other ways to rededicate my life to God and affirm my faith, like becoming a godmother and being ordained as a deacon. And if I push myself further, it’s really more about me living out my baptism than trying to recreate it. I have an opportunity every day to affirm my faith through the choices I make about things, like how to spend my time and money, how I provide love and support, and how I speak up for those without a voice.

When have you had meaningful opportunities to live out your baptism? What special opportunities do you have to do that during this season of Advent?

God of peace, our world is woefully unprepared for the coming of your Son. Our valleys are low, our mountains are high, our paths are crooked, and we are plagued by division and violence. Help us to seek and find ways to affirm our faith and live out our baptism so that we can bring your kingdom closer to earth. Amen.

Written by Nicole Spirgen, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church

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