TRIPLETS AT PENTECOST
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!
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.
© Rev Paul Smith