Sunday, December 15, 2013

Isaac's Big Day

2 Thessalonians 2:13-14 (NIV)

But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because God chose you as firstfruits to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The gathered family. A wonderful day.
Perhaps someone who writes a blog about parenting with a Christian perspective (or someone who used to before a fourth baby arrived and did serious damage to his dad’s productivity) should have something deep and meaningful to say about his infant son’s first sacrament. But this was a day where I paused in trying to figure out what everything meant and simply allowed myself to experience the joy of the moment.

There was a point during Isaac’s baptism where I stopped staring into his eyes, stopped checking to see if the other three boys were standing politely and stopped checking to see if my tie was straight and actually stood straight up and looked out at the congregation. For a moment it felt like our wedding ceremony, during which we surveyed a room full of people there to give us love and support.

It was a different building today, but many of the faces were the same. Several others belonged to people to whom we’ve gown close since moving her almost five years ago. And unlike at a wedding, there were plenty of folks there who would have been at church regardless of our special day, but the liturgy reminds them and us that accepting a child into the congregation is about our responsibilities as a community of faith not limited to personal relationships.

The moment didn’t last long. After all, I had three children to supervise, plus a little bit of fretting about the fourth howling as he got washed in the water. Yet the feeling persisted throughout the day and hopefully will sustain me through many long years of raising these boys. After all, this is our final baptism as parents. Our next major church milestones are both several years away and also not about us as mom and dad, but about the kids as individuals.

Three boys have yet to be old enough for their third-grade Bible. All of them hopefully will go through confirmation class as they begin high school. Then things like baccalaureate Sunday, and perhaps one day their own weddings. They will stand up and face outward, reading the eyes of those gathered under the same roof in God’s name — but we’ll be among the seated and observant. Their blood family, yes, but part of the larger family of faith as well.

Jack helps make sure all things are ready.
One of the great gifts given to us today was the pastor’s initiative and creativity in involving the big brothers in the ritual. Jack was invited to pour the water into the baptismal font during the opening sentences. Max was tasked with retrieving presenting Isaac’s first Bible. And all three were asked, in front of everyone, if they would promise to encourage us to share the Bible with Isaac, to help him find his Sunday school classroom and to teach by example the high art of sharing. When Max proudly answered, “I will!” well, I couldn’t help but radiate joy.

I know faith isn’t for everyone. There are people who can handle belief but abhor organized religion. Some point out it’s entirely possible be a good person without going to church or acknowledging and worshipping a higher power — and just as possible to behave horribly despite claiming to walk in faith. The diversity of thought and experience helps makes modern life rich and challenging, and I truly value the chance to communicate with people who come at the world through a perspective different from my own.

But on days like today, when I feel in my bones the love of God expressed in unmistakable, uncontained abundance, I know I’m walking the path intended for me. And after all the excitement and family time, as I (soon, I hope!) lay me down to sleep, I commit to waking tomorrow to live in gratitude for the many blessings I experience today and every day.

A prayer for December 15:

I know I’m supposed to write my own prayers to end these things. But I feel it more appropriate to share this instead. Following the worship service today was the Christmas pageant, our first with a child involved. Since the focus was on classic carols, and not just the music but extra knowledge as well, we were able to hear the name of Isaac Watts invoked during the spoken introduction to “Joy to the World.” This is special to me, as noted right after our own Isaac arrived.

Furthermore, earlier in the morning the sermon incorporated the well-known prayer that almost led to us using a middle name before we chose a first name. I’d love to delve into the full context of the sermon, or even the history of the prayer itself, but it seems more appropriate at the moment to simply share the words and add to them my thanks the prayer exists at all as well as my hope I can live up to its high calling:

The Prayer of St. Francis

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is error, truth;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

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