A New Creation

Listening to the prayers, watching for the symbols...
Listening to the prayers, watching for the symbols...

Just as finals were winding down in December, I hopped aboard a red-eye and traveled home to be with family for the holidays. Even with my flight delayed, and the remains of a meatball sub spilled all over my shirt, I was excited to spend time with my siblings and parents. In addition to our normal celebration of Christmas, my niece, born in late July, was to be baptized and my sister thoughtfully waited until I was home so I could witness the moment. Christmas would be even more special this year for my family since there was a new Christian around the tree.

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God has given you a new birth by water and the Holy Spirit, and welcomed you into his holy people…

On the 4th Sunday of Advent I watched my sister hold her baby over the font as water was poured through her soft hair. I saw Alexis Maria’s godparents trace a cross on her forehead, promising to support her young Christian life. And, I was there at the dinner afterwards where the guest of honor, all 5 months old and -umpteen pounds of her, was passed around and oogled at. Through it all, she squirmed and smiled, peed and pooped, but never cried. I, on the other hand, was all tears.

This child of yours has been enlightened by Christ…

The baptismal ceremony is really beautiful; it’s high drama at its finest and most meaningful. There’s an abundance of symbols: oil, water, candles, and garments. Promises are made and renewed, spoken for self and on behalf of the little one. And there is plenty of touch: crosses are traced on the forehead, ears are caressed, lips are dabbed, candles are held aloft.

Alexis Maria, you have become a new creation…

Active and full of hope, the prayers recited welcome both the baby and the baptized. The community gathered that afternoon – family, friends, faithful, even the fallen away – was there to witness a significant moment that my niece will never remember: when she was claimed, clothed, and created in Christ.       

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Her newness, her new life, has brought out something unfamiliar in so many, including me. My sister, Tracey, dotes on her beautiful daughter and is exceptional with her: tender, attentive, and gently mild in a way I’ve never seen her. As she cradles her ‘new creation’ I have come to understand that my sister is reflected in those prayers I heard that day, as well. Tracey is herself a new creation as a mother and that’s not just a new circumstance or title — it’s a moment wherein my sister is growing into who she is and who she will continue to become. The arrival of Alexis is a rich development in our relationship as siblings, one that’s far more dynamic than I ever considered: this is a new way of my sister being sister to me. As a mother in her own right.

So too with my parents, first-time grandparents, whose practiced hands and confidence around babies I never appreciated before; I don’t remember them as young people. But I see in them a change, a spark: they might be tired from babysitting, but they’re energized at the same time, continuing to develop into new persons, even at the age of retirement. And I find myself energized to get to know the new creations of ‘Nana’ and ‘Grandpa,’ for these are new ways of my parents being parents to me. It’s funny: as a teenager, I didn’t think my parents would ever be ‘new’ at anything. Who knew?

Alexis Maria, you have become a new creation…

The truth is my whole family has and will continue to be recreated for the rest of our lives. Our relationships, those loving bonds of community and family, are dynamic, always moving and developing, being tested, strengthened and deepened.

Yes, late in December, my niece was claimed for Christ and became a new creation, but soon even she will be recreated anew again. My sister-in-law is pregnant now and expecting a baby in June: Alexis will have a little cousin. Soon after the birth of that child we’ll celebrate another baptism, listening again to the prayers, watching anew for the symbols, and we’ll pass around and oogle at the newest creation at some familiar restaurant, each of us finding new ways in us to relate to that new life in front of us, and the old lives all around us.    

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The cover photo, from Flickr user Tuncay can be found here.

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