Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Pastor Don Davidson's Words

You Must’ve Been a Beautiful Baby

"One of my favorite duties as a pastor is conducting Parent-Child Dedication services. And, at First Baptist, I get to do it almost every week!

Not to be confused with infant baptism, or “Christening”, this is a meaningful few moments at the altar where parents commit themselves to raising their child in a Christian home. Teaching Jesus’ ways, and modeling before that little one the way to follow Him. The baby won’t remember any of it, and will one day, when older, have to make her own commitment to the LORD. It doesn’t happen automatically, because God honors the free will that He gave us, but it is almost inevitable when those parents honor the vows made in that service. Just a few years later, down the aisle the child comes and into the baptistry – and I get to hold him again.
When I started my ministry over three decades ago, I only had these dedication services once a year (usually Mother’s Day). Parents with their babies would stretch across the front of the sanctuary and all repeat their promises in unison. I would introduce each one, of course, have one all-inclusive prayer and off to the nursery they would go.

But I didn’t enjoy it that much. Too many names to remember and too many opportunities to flub my lines. Plus, once one baby started crying it would be like dominoes falling – soon they’d all be screaming. It unnerved me.

About twenty years ago I saw James Flamming at First Baptist, Richmond (now a good friend), conducting a Parent-Child Dedication service as part of their televised worship service. He did them one at a time, and it was so tender and personal. And he spoke words over the baby – words of prophecy and hope. I sat there wondering why it had never occurred to me to do it that way.

During that same time in my life I happened to be attending a Sunday service (while on vacation) at Peachtree Presbyterian Church of Atlanta. Their great pastor, Frank Harrington, (now in Heaven) was having an infant baptismal service and he took the little child in his arms, held her up to God, and prayed before touching her head with drops of water.

I didn’t believe in that, theologically– but I wept the entire time he was doing it, so moved by all the faith and hope, plans and dreams there on display. I started doing it just like that (but without the water, of course), and have never gone back to the old “line up” approach.
So I get to hold the baby, speak scripture into little ears, and present him to his new family of faith at First Baptist Church. These children are animated, usually bright-eyed, and they almost never cry while I’m holding them. I think each baby is the most beautiful baby I have ever seen.

Yesterday was no exception – but what an exceptional moment it was! Joe and Katie Murray brought forward their little girl, Joella, to be presented to God. She’s the baby born this summer with a very rare skin disorder that made us fear we’d not get to keep her very long. And so we all prayed, Deacons ministered in every way imaginable and Bible Fellowship friends brought meals every night to the weary parents and sets of grandparents.

They see her as a special gift from God (as we all do now) and on Sunday they were powerfully and publicly giving her back to Him, for whatever His will might be in the future. It is possible to trust our good and loving heavenly Father – even with that which is most precious to us. You learn that, over time and through dark valleys.

Baby Joella and I were at a cook-out together on Saturday night, so we did a little “bonding” and practicing for the big event. We were both pretty confident about it on Sunday morning. And the service went off beautifully.

Later, during the choir music and Robin Huffman’s solo, Joella did break down and let out a wail or two. There are times when that is rather distracting to me and takes away from my worship experience – but not yesterday. A big smile came across my face as I realized how wonderful babies and life really are. Their arrival on the scene means that God has not yet given up on His world. That there is still some great thing to be done – and maybe this one will do it.

I almost leaned over (I was sitting beside the family) and volunteered to hold her again if that would help. But… it was time to preach.

And I’ve only got 2 hands."

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