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Just over two years ago we had a wedding here at which there were almost as many children as adults. The couple loved children, had several of their own already, as it was a second marriage, and it was a lovely occasion. As with most couples, unless I am specifically asked or it seems obviously too late, I include in the prayers, a prayer for the gift and care of children. Little were any of us to know that our prayers would not just be answered, but answered in triplicate! Once the arrival of 3 babies at once hit the local headlines I had visions of infertile couples lining up at the vicarage door asking for prayers – fortunately for me that didn’t happen, but it has been a source of amusement to us in the parish since then, and I make sure nowadays, not too put TOO much emphasis on the prayer for children!

Special day
Several months ago Ken and Shirley approached me about having their babies baptised and were keen on today’s date. Once I’d secured extra help in the form of Liz, I was able to say we’d be delighted to hold their christening today. So it is that we’ve arrived at a very special day. It’s special for more than one reason though. Not only is it a once in a lifetime experience for many of us, it is also the birthday of the Church – Pentecost (or Whitsunday). Our readings describe the coming of the Holy Spirit, both as the promise of Christ to his disciples and in the dramatic events of that first day when the Spirit came with power. So our celebration is a double celebration: baptism and Pentecost.

Meaning in the names
I have been doing a little bit of research (and I must say, thank God or whoever, for the internet which make research that much easier these days!) I’ve been finding out a little about the three names that are uppermost in our minds today: Maisie, Archie and Christopher. The choice of baby names is something that causes most parents endless discussions about ideas and who to name their baby after and what it will mean for their child to have such and such a name as opposed to a different one. I gather the arrival of triplets caused a certain amount of sleeplessness on this count – quite apart from the normal demands of tiny babies! Anyway, the parents have been just as fertile with their supply of names as they were biologically in the first place! Each child has two further forenames as well as their first. But it their first names that I’d like to concentrate on. I’m going to take them in the order which they are going to be baptised in, and show what their name can say about the Holy Spirit.

You may know that this is a form of Margaret. It’s the 14th most popular girls name in UK – become much more popular in the last 2/3 yrs. It has Greek origins but has strong Scottish associations. It means “pearl”. In Jesus parables he talked of the pearl of great price, about a merchant who sells all he has because he has found just the most perfect pearl. That is like the Kingdom of God, said Jesus. Maisie pearl can remind us of how precious is the gift of the Holy Spirit. Without the Spirit we cannot live the Christian life. Jesus told the disciples to wait until they received the gift of the Spirit before they tried to start spreading the good news. Once the Spirit came, the number of believers grew like crazy, and soon the Church was growing in strength and spreading even to places which were far away in those days. The Spirit also came with gifts for the believers. They were able to use their gifts in the service of Christ. Some were good at communicating, whilst others were really practical. Some found they could offer healing and others contributed to the welfare of the Church from their own resources. So Maisie reminds us of the gift of the Spirit who brought the Church into being. One day Maisie may be a mother herself, and I gather she has already shown signs of mothering her two brothers!

Archie is the 24th most popular boys name in UK though it has tailed off in popularity in the last couple of years. It has Scottish and German origins and it means genuine, true, bold and brave. In some ways he has already lived up to that name in having to be bold and brave in his earliest days, giving concern to parents and medics about his survival. But he pulled through fine and may yet prove to punch above his weight! What his name reminds about the Spirit is that Jesus promised the Spirit would lead us into all truth. That was a very bold thing for St John to include in his gospel. In those days they believed that they had complete truth in the Jewish scriptures. What God had revealed in law, prophets and wisdom writings was the complete package. They didn’t think they needed anything else and all that was taught was based on a complicated building up of teachings based on the holy writings. Now here comes Jesus saying that they didn’t have everything they needed to know. They were not even able to grasp it all anyway. The Spirit would lead and guide them on in their journey of faith. Once Jesus had gone there was much more for them to find out. They were going to need to be bold and brave without him to hold their hand all the time. The Spirit within them would help them know what was right and guide them where to go. It’s true – although we have the Scriptures as our basic map, the Church is always facing new questions, new situations as the times change. With our attention to the Spirit we can find the answers, make our decisions and still stay faithful to Jesus. So Archie’s name reminds us that the Spirit comes to make us brave, bold and true.

When it comes to popularity I have to say that Christopher is not up near the top! It might have been in the days of Christopher Columbus, Christopher Wren or even Christopher Reeve, but nowadays it is only the 200th most popular boys name in UK! It has become steadily less popular since 1984. But it has a really good pedigree: it is Greek in origin and many early Christians wanted to honour Christ with such a personal link. It means “bearer of Christ”. Christopher’s name reminds us that the Holy Spirit is also the bearer of Christ to us. It is because of the work of the Holy Spirit that we know of Christ and can relate to him. It was the Spirit who drove the first followers to spread the news about Jesus. Through the Spirit’s work that message travelled across barriers and along far distances. It was translated into people’s own languages, it gave courage and determination to people to St Paul or St Thomas to carry the gospel far and wide. The Spirit also drew believers together into communities focussed on Christ. They formed cells or groups where they could listen to the word of Christ, where they could reach out to the needy or stand up against injustice. All this was the work of the Spirit, bearing Christ, making his reaching out and teaching real in the life of local congregations. Christopher’s name reminds us that the Spirit is the prime bearer of Christ, and that his coming into our lives is so that we can all become bearers of Christ in our own lives.

As we celebrate baptism, we remember that this is when the Spirit comes on each new member of the Church. As we pour water over each baby’s head, we pray that the Spirit may be poured out in their lives. As we give them their special names, we pray that the name of Christ will sink into their hearts. As we greet them as new members of the Church, we pray for their futures that they may be faithful to Christ.

Copyright © Rev Paul Smith