John the Baptist said, “He will baptize you in the Holy Spirit”. (Mark 1:8) What does it mean to be baptized in the Holy Spirit? And how would this Baptism of the Holy Spirit manifest itself in your life?
Today we celebrate the second Sunday of Advent, and as we prepare to celebrate the birth of our Lord it would be to our benefit to stop and consider this question. I say this because I can’t help but reflect on the difficulties and concerns that many of us have at this time of the year. Not only are our minds consumed with all the preparation that lay before us, but our plans and preparations are clouded by the difficulties that surround us. We worry about the economy and what effect it will have, not only on our plans for Christmas, but also on our future. We worry about our job, or our ability to find another one in time to prevent a personal financial crisis. We worry about recent changes within our family and what effect these changes will have on the holiday season and on our future. In short, our ability to experience and enjoy the moment, this season of Advent, is crippled by our worries, fears and concerns about tomorrow.
So I want to share with you a quote that I found that addresses this very issue. It is taken from a book titled “The Shack”, written by William P. Young. I want to share with you a portion of the book, a section in which Jesus is having a conversation with the main character. Now I know that this is fiction, but it is good fiction. Just imagine as you read this that Jesus is having this conversation with you.
So many of your fears are imagined. You spend an awful lot of time worrying about the future. I dwell with you in the present. Much can be remembered and learned by looking back, that’s true, but you shouldn’t live in the past. And for sure I don’t dwell in the future that you visualize or imagine.
Do you realize that your imagination of the future, which is almost always dictated by fear of some kind, rarely, if ever, pictures me there with you? This is your desperate attempt to get some control over something that you can’t control. It is impossible for you to take power over the future because it isn’t even real. Nor will it ever be real. You try and play God. Imagining the evil that you fear becoming reality! And then you try to make plans and contingencies to avoid what you fear. You have all this fear in your life because you don’t believe. You don’t know that I love you.
The person who lives by their fears will not find freedom in my love. I’m not talking about rational fears regarding legitimate dangers; but imagined fears; and especially the projection of those into the future. To the degree that those fears have a place in your life, you neither believe that I am good nor know deep in your heart that I love you. You sing about it, you talk about it, but you don’t know it.
This is so true. If we truly believed, or knew in our heart, the infinite love of God, how different would our lives be? Advent is one of those special times of the year in which we remember and we celebrate this incredible love of God. The reason that God became one of us, in the person of Jesus Christ, was simply to prove the depth of His love for you and me. This is truly an event worthy of preparation and celebration. If we think about the future, and picture God in that future with us, if we truly had confidence in His goodness and His love, would we still be concerned? Would we still worry?
We were meant to live in the present, knowing and trusting in the incredible goodness and love of God. In today’s Gospel, John the Baptist said, “One more powerful than I is coming. He will baptize you in the Holy Spirit.” So, in order for us to truly enjoy, and benefit from, this special season of Advent, we need to understand just exactly what it means to be baptized in the Holy Spirit; and how this baptism of the Holy Spirit relates to the issue of our worries, fears and concerns.
The teachings of the Roman Catholic Church assures us that we are all first born again of water and the Holy Spirit when we received the sacrament of Baptism. Baptism is the gateway to life in the Spirit. Through Baptism we are reborn as sons and daughters of God. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1213) The Church also affirms the fact that our Baptism only begins the work and mission of the Holy Spirit in our lives, reminding us that the work of the Holy Spirit is not limited exclusively to our Baptism. Confirmation, for example, is the Church’s official prayer that we be enriched with a special strength of the Holy Spirit. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1285) By this enrichment and strength the Church prays that we be empowered to spread the gospel, to live a Christian life, and share more fully in the mission and ministry of the Church.
Many years ago I had an individual ask me if I had been born again and if I were Spirit-filled. Even though this happened a long time ago, I still remember being confused and embarrassed because I did not know how to respond. But since then I have come to understand that the person who is truly “born again” and “Spirit-filled” is not necessarily the one who has had an extraordinary experience of the Holy Spirit at some point in their life. We all understand that having such an experience would be a blessing. But the person who is truly “born again” and “Spirit-filled” is the person who has learned to live with the Holy Spirit, to walk with the Holy Spirit and to trust in the continual presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives.
John the Baptist said, “He will baptize you in the Holy Spirit”. To more fully understand and appreciate what is meant by this Baptism of the Holy Spirit; think of this Baptism as being a “release” or a “coming to consciousness”. By our membership in this family of God, in this Body of Christ, each and every one of us has the Holy Spirit residing within us. This is an incredibly important reality. And once we accept this reality, once we release, or surrender ourselves to this presence, we allow the Holy Spirit to not only work in our lives, but also to flow through our lives. And once we come to this consciousness we come to understand that life is to be lived in joyful anticipation, not lived in fear and trepidation.
I would like to share with you a part of an essay titled “The Station” which was written and copyrighted in 1980 by Robert J. Hastings. (1924-1997) He was a Southern Baptist Minister for over 50 years. He wrote,
“Relish the moment” is a good motto, especially when coupled with Psalm 118:24: “This is the day which the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” It isn’t the burdens of today that drive men mad. Rather, it is regret over yesterday or fear of tomorrow. Regret and fear are twin thieves who would rob us of today. So stop pacing the aisles and counting the miles. Instead, climb more mountains, eat more ice cream, go barefoot oftener, swim more rivers, watch more sunsets, laugh more and cry less. Life must be lived as we go along.
Christ has come. He came to earth over 2,000 years ago. And we have received His baptism. His spirit, His goodness, His power and His love abides within us. This is certainly an event worthy of our preparation and our celebration. Rather than feeling anxious about things over which we have little or no control, let us live and love with confidence, as children of God, conscious of the presence of His Holy Spirit residing within us.