22 Aug Bringing Children to Jesus
Baby Dedications are some of my favorite celebrations in the church. As a former children’s and family pastor, I cherish the memory of one baby dedication Sunday in particular.
As usual, the children were invited to come to the front rows of the sanctuary so that they could better see and participate in what was happening on the stage. There was a basket of shakers and other music makers for anyone to use during the all-church worship. However, this Sunday was special because there were no separate children’s classes after the time of singing and dancing. Instead, everyone stayed together during the whole service.
After the worship with music, we read the story of parents who brought their children to Jesus for him to bless them. We told everyone that some people didn’t like what they were doing and asked them to leave Jesus alone. We, then, imagined what it would be like to be one of the parents, children or someone watching all of it unfold. During the reading, we asked, “What would it be like to be brought to Jesus and be welcomed by him? What would Jesus say, do and feel when he sees you? What about us? What would we want to do or say to Jesus?”
There were cut out paper dolls on each chair and markers. Everyone in the service was invited to draw themselves as a child and bring their paper doll to the pile of cushions that represented Jesus’ lap. Some wrote worries, hopes and dreams on their dolls, all that they wanted to bring to Jesus. After this moment of imagining, coloring, being with Jesus and responding to him, the families with babies were invited to come up.
The babies were introduced one by one and admired. We used to walk around the hall showing off the babies to everyone in the congregation but quickly grew too big for this to be possible anymore. Now, instead we project a close up photo of the baby on the screen. We spoke about the gift that each baby is and the parents committed themselves to nurturing, protecting and caring for the children with God’s help. The rest of the church promised to do their best to be the welcoming face of Jesus to the babies too.
While the families spread across the sanctuary and others gathered around them, laid hands on them to bless them, the young people sang a blessing hymn over the babies and their families. Some other stories of the generous, and sometimes surprising, welcome of Jesus were shared across the room while we continued to celebrate the gift of belonging to God’s family.
Now, as a spiritual director, I continue to cherish opportunities to bring children to meet with the welcoming face and arms of Jesus. And I love to see children participating in visible ways in all church worship. Yet, I agree with Jerome Berryman (founder of the Godly Play foundation), when he said that children do not need to do or say anything in order to bless others, they bless us simply with their presence. Children remind us of what the kingdom of God is like and show us how to enter in. Perhaps that is the very reason why baby dedication celebrations are so sacred to me.
Written By Kaisa Stenberg-Lee, formerly part of Vineyard Amsterdam, the Netherlands now Spiritual Director at Kutsu Companions (www.kutsucompanions.com)
Photo by Dave Pelham Photography (www.davepelham.photography)