Christian Baptism: What’s it All About?

(Adapted from Let the Children Come: A Baptism Manual for Parents and Sponsors, copyright Daniel W. Erlander)

Welcome parents, sponsors, family members and friends…to Baptism!

Children — whether born to you or adopted – are truly one of God’s great blessings in life. No doubt, it’s been an exciting time in your household the past several months as you’ve been waiting for your new family member to arrive.

The funny thing is: having a new baby is the easy part! (For those who have already had children, you know this well!) In the months and years ahead, the real challenges await, with much learning and growing to look forward to – for your child and you.

But, before you begin this new life together, you’ve either decided upon or are thinking about baptism for your child.

There are many reasons why Christians bring little children to the baptism font.

One reason is our need to surround a child with love and promises – God’s, the parent’s, the sponsor’s, and the church’s. Together, they all play a part in shaping a well-rounded Christian. Children really benefit from belonging to a community, a people of faith who share a history, a set of beliefs, and a common bond of faith.

Another reason, though, is our Christian belief that a child is much more than “mine” or “ours.” He or she is God’s creation, God’s child. Baptism is one of the primary ways that God directly grants his grace on and in each of us. Later in life, at confirmation, we confirm our baptism and renew this receiving of grace through communion.

With heavy symbolism like this, baptism can sometimes sound pretty complicated. To some, it may appear like a ritual that really ought to be for children or adults who understand what is going on and who can consciously commit to it.

However, Martin Luther (1483-1546), the great reformer, thought otherwise. He kept the practice of infant baptism in the reformation congregations which eventually became Lutheran churches.

Luther saw baptism as the sacrament “through which we are first received into the Christian community.” Since the church is for all, including infants, it follows that baptism, the sacrament of entry, is for all.

Luther also saw infant baptism as the purest and most beautiful picture of God’s gracious and unconditional love.

An infant has served on no committees, has done no great work, and is helpless, needy, dependent, and unemployed. In fact, an infant brought to the water for baptism is a sign of how we all come to god – with nothing, absolutely nothing!

Luther himself was baptized on St. Martin’s Day, November 11, 1483, at St. Peter’s church in Eisleben, Germany. Throughout his life, he celebrated and adored this event, crying out, “I am baptized!” whenever he was in doubt or despair.

That’s the way baptism ought to be – an active and present part of our lives…not the knowledge of a distant event that happened when we were infants.

May your decision to baptize your child, as a sponsor or family member participate in a child’s baptism, be one that you not only celebrate, but finds ways to call upon throughout your life.

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