Pax: a greeting signifying Christian love ; kiss of peace. Pax: Latin, literal peace.
On the 2nd Sunday of Easter and the day of your baptism,
One day a religious snob will ask if you remember your baptism, and if you say ‘no,’ he'll say that it doesn’t count. Don’t listen to him. You also won’t remember that you have an extremely active bowel system. That doesn’t mean we didn’t change your outfit at least twice a day. It’s not your memory that makes this day count, but God’s. Some folks remember vividly their baptism. But for me, and also for you, we were too little. You can’t remember because you became a part of Christ’s body before you even realized there was a God at all. Because for all you know, right now, your mom is God.
First things first: it’s a white robe, not a dress, because you’ve been clothed in divine light. Your mom bought three, chose her favorite, and then returned the other two. You got off pretty easy, because we could have stripped you naked like they do in the Eastern Orthodox tradition. There is no rationale behind the train conductor hat, besides that it was cute and also your father’s.
You are a kiss of peace, Pax. You cried before the service began, but then never made a sound. It must have been your dad's voice from the pulpit, either that or your mom's bouncing, that put you to sleep until Grandpa put a little water on your head. How rude. You woke up—drowned and raised to new life—and your eyes opened up like saucers. Were the trees greener, the sky bluer? The old world, of only three months, had passed when the eternal was sprinkled into the temporal.
It was only a little sponge bath, after all, and you love taking baths. Every night you thrash about kicking all of the water out of the sink and we have to turn the knobs, finding the precise combination to avoid either a third degree burn or ice bath. One day you will learn that dirt can be accrued in places other than in between your toes (or should I say deep in the rolls of your neck). And God will pick up a loofah to scrub the crevices of your heart, if you’re open to it, until the work is complete.
The water was from the Jordan River, where Jesus was baptized, which isn’t magic; but it ought to remind you that you’ve joined Jesus’ river—a river that stretches back thousands of years. This river is wide, full of boats that oftentimes seem they’re all traveling in different directions, or against the flow, or trying to sink each other. There will be times when you’ll wish certain boats would dock and get out of the river. But you don’t get to choose who to sail with and that’s called being the church. A whole tribe of folks piled into your boat this morning and promised to help raise you and we can't be more grateful.
The initiatory sacrament, which enters us into covenant with God. It was instituted by Christ, who alone has power to institute a proper sacrament, a sign, seal, pledge, and means of grace.
You were baptized as Paxton Daniel:
Pax: Picking a name is always a challenge. You were almost Parker Owen, but that placed your initials in an unfortunate sequence. My dental hygienist suggested naming you something seasonal: Joseph or Gabriel. Zechariah is a unique choice. There’s the three magi traditionally known as Balthasar, Melchior, and Gaspar. Could we start a new trend?No one suggested Herod or Augustus. Then, you were born two days before the we lit the fourth Advent candle, symbolizing peace.
Jesus was born during the ‘Pax Romana,’ the height of prosperity and relative stability in Rome. It was peaceful, but no time feels peaceful enough to those who are living, laboring, and loving. One night a group of angels appeared to shepherds and said, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” A child would be born who would challenge the politics of Rome and level the scales. The first recipients were peasants located toward the bottom of the scale of power and privilege who were tending to their sheep by night. Every time the fourth Sunday of Advent rolls around we will pray that you live in a different kind of kin-dom, a paxton, or a peace town, that is under the reign of the Prince of Peace. It is a dark world, but every infant is a defiant candle shining bright.
Daniel: Your great-grandmother, Betty Snipes, will finally be able to call the ceremony a christening and a baptism. Yes, we paid a modest fee to change your middle name and then had to publicly display the application on a bulletin board for ten days so that any passerby could laugh at our mistake; hey, it was our scarlet letter. Our nurse had asked us, more than once, if we were certain about your name. We nodded with a sanguine smile. Anyway, it’s all Mema’s fault. When we arrived home from the hospital your Mema said, “I was surprised you didn’t name him Daniel.” Your grandpa’s name is Dan and he passed his name on to your mother. Now it’s yours. From a Biblical perspective, names are much more than an identifying sound. Names reveal character and their destiny. Your grandpa has a kind heart. He is patient. He loves God and his neighbor. We hope that’s your destiny, too. You’ll have a number of other names throughout the rest of your life: son, brother, dad, musician (probably not, sorry), electrician, teacher, whatever. We wish we could shield you from all the other harmful names that will haunt you in the night. Your inner dialogue will tempt you with names like worthless, stupid, ugly, failure. Still, you might be tempted with equally dangerous names like powerful, successful, rich. Each of those names can become a demon that will threaten to steal your identity.
Today, we gathered around water and all of those names were proleptically put in the water and drowned. We clothed you with another identity: Christian—a little Christ. Beloved—loved by God. “Christ-ened,” called by the name of Christ. We love you, Pax. God does, too. And there’s nothing you have to do, nothing you can do, to earn it.