Friday, January 25, 2013

Baptismal Blessings

One of the things that I've really enjoyed about my new position is leading baptism classes for parents who want to have their child baptized.  Parents don't have to come to a class, but most do, and most classes last about forty-five minutes.

I like to start the class by asking the parents to introduce their baby/child and why they picked that name.  After everyone shares, I then ask if anyone remembers anything about their baptism.  Most don't.  Then I ask if they remember any stories that they've been told about their baptism that their parents or others present have told them over the years.  Usually someone has a story to share, but again, most don't.

And this is why I like leading this class.  Because I want parents to walk out of the class knowing that baptism is more than fire insurance.  I want them to feel equipped and inspired to celebrate their child's baptismal anniversary.  And I want them to walk out knowing that God loves them - and their child - beyond a shadow of a doubt.

That, after all, is what baptism is about.  For me, baptism is first about identity.  I love telling parents that in baptism, our name as Child of God is announced to everyone present.  This is a name that can never be taken from us, and if their child ever has a time in his/her life when they wonder if God really loves them, they can look back on their baptism and be assured that the answer is, "Yes!"

Secondly, for me, baptism is about God's activity.  This is also something I want parents to understand.  We are God's, and we are loved: no ifs, ands, or buts.  In baptism, God seals us with the promise of the Holy Spirit - the promise to be with us always - and we are marked with the cross of Christ.  This mark affirms God's love for us and God's forgiveness, along with the fact that nothing can ever change that love nor make it go away.  It is a gift; there is nothing we can do to earn it or un-earn it.

At this point I explain to parents that as their child gets older, there will come a time for their child to decide if they want to claim the promises their parents made for them at baptism as their own.  But in the meantime, I tell them I firmly believe faith is caught more than it is taught, and that what they do at home makes a huge difference as to whether their child will grow up to have a life-giving faith, or not.

That said, here are some ideas for passing on faith in Jesus and teaching kids about baptism at home:

1) On your child's baptismal anniversary, light the candle that was lit at their baptism and tell them: Jesus is the light of the world.  Jesus' light is in you.

2) Before your child goes to bed or leaves the house in the morning, make the sign of the cross on his/her forehead and say: "God made you special and I love you very much."

3) When you give your child a bath, talk to them about the water that was put on his/her head during baptism.  Tell them about their baptismal day: Who was there?  Did your child smile?  Cry?  Sleep through it?  What did the congregation sing?

And here are some resources you can buy that are awesome:
1) Faith Talk Cards- Conversation starters in a variety of topics that can be used at mealtimes, in restaurants, in the car, you name it.

2) Jesus Storybook Bible- There are lots of great children's Bibles out there.  This is one that I like a lot.  Others include the Spark Story Bible and the Rhyme Bible.

3) Living the Promises of Baptism- This book includes 101 ideas for remembering the promises of baptism, divided into various topics and age groups.  As the back cover of the book puts it, "Of all the gifts parents can pas on to their children, faith is the most precious.  The heart of our role as Christian parents is sharing and living out that faith with the children God gives us.

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