Birth from Above...
Last Sunday morning I filled the baptismal font with warm water and lit the Paschal candle. Mrs. Larson meanwhile was at home getting our children ready and making sure there were no wrinkles in Luther’s baptismal gown. This morning another child would be accepted by God and brought to the waters of heavenly birth.
“When Jesus was baptized he went up for the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Mt. 3:16-17). The Father was pleased because the Son was fulfilling the work that was given to him to do, to take the sins of the world upon Himself and triumph over sin, death, and the devil by His glorious Resurrection. At Jesus’ Ascension he blessed his disciples and gave them this command “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
You see when we are baptized we are baptized into Christ, joined to him and pray His prayer “Our Father…” And just like the baptism of our Lord the heavens are opened up, the Holy Spirit comes to rest on us all our lives, and our Father in heaven speaks these words to you “You are my beloved daughter, my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased.” The heavens are opened to you and God speaks to you words of love and tender mercy.
St. Cyril of Jerusalem (4th century) wrote the following of Baptism: ”Great indeed is the Baptism which is offered you. It is a ransom to captives; the remission of offences; the death of sin; the regeneration of the soul; the garment of light; the holy seal indissoluble; the chariot to heaven; the luxury of paradise; a procuring of the kingdom; the gift of adoption!”
If you have strayed from your baptism and have been beset by sin, repent! Climb back into the ark of the holy Christian Church, leave behind your old self and return to the gift given to you in your baptism. It is just as valid today! And what do you receive in baptism? The Bible (God’s Word) says it works the forgiveness of sins, rescues from death, and the devil, and gives eternal life to all who believe this.
Martin Luther reminds us in the Small Catechism that we should think of our baptisms every day when we wake up, make the sign of the cross, and pray the Lord’s Prayer. In the morning and evening Mrs. Larson and I mark the sign of the cross upon the forehead and heart of our children and bless them by reminding them of their baptisms. Prayers are best kept simple and no more detailed proclamation is required that this “Thank you Lord for giving me the gift of Holy Baptism. Thank you for sending your Son to die for my sins that the heavens should be opened to me and that I would be declared well pleasing to you. Amen.”