Baptism of Our Lord Sunday
January 13, 2013
Recently, in my role as a hospice chaplain, I baptized a beautiful little three-month old baby girl, as she was being held in the arms of her mother in their home. The baby was terminally ill, and few days later she went to heaven.
When I baptized her, she was hooked up to a feeding tube and oxygen and monitors — wires and tubes everywhere. The warm water flowing from my hand over her little head seemed to calm her. It made her dark hair curl, and when I dried it, it stuck out everywhere. When I moved to the sofa behind her and said, “Little girl, your hair looks like Bozo!” the nurse who had taken her in her arms said the baby smiled just then.
I told mom and dad that in our church, after we baptize a baby, the pastor takes the child in his arms and parades her down the aisle, saying, “Welcome your new little sister to God’s family,” and we cheer. But the only audience this day was the baby’s two-year old brother, and he was too busy running around to notice the whole affair. Mom and Dad themselves were preoccupied by the fact that their newborn wasn’t faring too well and that the end might be near. The “sanctuary” lacked a sense of celebration that day.
However, I reminded the parents of their act of faith when I led the funeral service a week later. I shared with them why I believe the little baby lying in front of us in her pink dress in the baby casket is safe with God, and why we can have peace that she is now being cared for in her heavenly home.
First, I said, Jesus always welcomed children, took them into his arms, and blessed them. Always. Even when his friends tried to shoo the little ones away so they wouldn’t interrupt the “important” work Jesus was doing, the Savior would have none of that. He was all about the kids. I don’t know of a single instance when he turned them away. We can trust that Jesus welcomed this little girl, embraced her, and that she is living in his blessing today.
Second, I reminded mom and dad, you can have an even deeper sense of peace because you brought her to Jesus in faith and had her baptized. You committed her into God’s care. And it is the Bible that says, “But when the goodness and loving-kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. This Spirit he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. The saying is sure.” (Titus 3:4-8)
I praised these young parents for loving their baby, for caring for her in difficult circumstances, for giving her a home in which she could live and die surrounded by love and support. I assured them, by the Good News of Jesus, that she is now home with God, safe and sound.
Father, into your hands, we commit her spirit.