During lunch at a parent retreat in a rural area of the northeast, a three-year-old girl approached me and took my hand. She curiously looked at it from all angles, somehow trying to figure out how my palm could be so beige and the rest of my hand a deep brown. She put her tiny ivory hand in mine, and thoughtfully studied our hands together. After a few moments, she looked at my face, tilted her head to the side, and smiled. This experience reminded me of God's gift of baptism.
Those of us who encounter children on a frequent and regular basis know that children are curious about our differences. They must touch and explore in order to understand the world around them. They accept that there are differences, but because they have not yet been touched by the prejudices or biases in this world, children see past the hue of skin or the texture of hair to the part of a person that makes them feel safe and nurtured. They form a bond based on love.
We see this in Paul's letter to the Galatians, the law of Christ is the law of love. Children exemplify for us the importance of living into the character of Christ. As adults, we often focus our attention on what makes us different, but Paul's letter reminds us that through our baptism, we are "one in Christ Jesus." It becomes our responsibility to our children to model this so that their innate ability to love does not become distorted.
One way to model what it means to live into our baptism is by sharing the experience of baptism with children and their parents. This sacrament is more than a ritual. It is a way of life for disciples of Jesus Christ.
Reading and Resources
Understanding God's Gift
by L. Edward Phillips and Sara Webb Phillips
Abooklet for parents and legal guardians preparing to present their children for baptism, and for those who seek a deeper knowledge of this sacrament. This resource unpacks the biblical and theological meanings of the sacrament through the words and movements of the Baptismal Covenant of The United Methodist Church while offering initial guidance on this initiation into Christ's holy church.
Available through Amazon.com
For a PDF download of this newsletter: Remember Your Baptism
Faithful formation of our children takes careful planning, communication with parents and children, intentional relationship building, patience, a sense of humor, and a commitment to the call to make disciples. Most of all, it takes living into the Christian command of love of God and neighbor.
Guide children in discovering and experiencing the sacrament of baptism.
When talking with children about baptism:
- Light a candle and share with them the Light of God
- Look for a rainbow and share with them God's faithful promise
- Show them ways that water provides new life
- Show them pictures and items from their baptisms
- Show them symbols on the baptismal font
- Talk about the meaning of baptism
- Share books and studies, such as:
Touch the Water, Taste the Bread: A Storybook About Jesus' Baptism by Daphna Flegal -- A resource developed for children ages four through eight that offers a way for children to discover the importance of baptism through the story of the baptism of Jesus.
Water, Come Down! The Day You Were Baptized by Walter Wangerin, Jr, -- A storybook that illustrates how all of creation join family and friends in the celebration of the baptism of a child of God.
I Belong to God by Carolyn K. Tanner -- Offers a six-session intergenerational study of baptism that explores concepts of God's love and grace that we experience in baptism through Bible stories, music, crafts, puzzles, and mission education.