When Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, was asked what he would write to his 14-year-old self, he said: “Dear Justin, You are rarely good to the core, a fact you know well and worry about. But don’t worry — it doesn’t measure who you are in God’s eyes. Keep on dreaming of great things but learn to live in the present so that you take steps to accomplish them. Above all, more important than anything, don’t wait until you are older to discover what it means to follow in the way of Jesus, to be marked as Christ’s own in baptism. He is not just a name at chapel, but a person you can know and follow. Christmas is not a fairy tale, but the compelling opening of the greatest drama in history, with you as one of millions of players. Sometimes life will be hard, but you will find more love than you can imagine. With my love to you, Justin.”
What does it mean to be marked as Christ’s own forever? This Sunday at Bethesda those words will be spoken by the presider at Baptism, as she or he makes the sign of the cross with holy oil on several foreheads. Then, this prayer will be uttered: “We thank you that by water and the Holy Spirit you have bestowed upon these your servants the forgiveness of sin and have raised them to the new life of grace. Sustain them, O Lord, in your Holy Spirit. Give them inquiring and discerning hearts, the courage to will and to persevere, a spirit to know and to love you, and the gift of joy and wonder in all your works. Amen.”
At the precipice of a new year, and in light of Jesus’ baptism and yours, what would you write to your 14-year-old self? What would I? Let’s all give it a try.