Advent devotion: The baptism
Our daughter Emily was baptized in a manner that was very familiar – in our church by our pastor during worship service, with family and the congregation present. When her sister Alison was baptized three years later, it was in a hospital room. The sacrament was administered by Ali’s grandfather, Donald Harding, with a handful of family members in attendance. This took place during a time of great uncertainty about Ali’s health and longevity of life. Simply stated, she was baptized in the hospital because it felt entirely possible that she would not live outside of it. Darkness was very much present in the form of emotional pain, and light seemed difficult if not impossible to see.
During the baptism, Grandpa Don used some anointing oil to make the sign of the cross on Ali’s forehead. This simple traditional act left a reddish-colored cross on her skin for several hours. The sight of it brought smiles to our faces and served as a reminder that God was present even during, perhaps especially during, the darkest moments. That is to say, we got a glimpse of light.
In the aftermath of Ali’s baptism, life did not become perfect. But her health situation did gradually improve. While her disability and related issues constantly presented challenges for all of us, what emerged beyond the disability was a very caring, determined, and charming individual. In these most important ways, Ali was very much like Emily. Don’t get me wrong, she was no saint (How did she learn to inflict pain by pinching someone on the inside of the arm, just above the elbow?). But her personality was a source of great light that cut through the darkness of dealing with her disability.
Alison’s life on earth lasted 24 years, far longer than we had expected when she was baptized. More importantly, her light continues to shine brightly for all who knew her. During this Advent season and throughout the coming year, let us pray that God will work through us to provide the same type of light for each other, for all others.
Editor’s note: Watch for a profile of Ali and her family in the January Journey magazine.
Gary Maiden is Lutheran by birth and, since 1996, St. Paul member by choice. Along with his bride Patty, he enjoys reading and bicycling on the area trail system, although they seldom do both simultaneously.