Once the birth of Jesus had been celebrated and his mother had time to recover from the ordeal of childbirth, the law of God required two things for this firstborn son. He was to be named on the same day he was circumcised, and then a few weeks later taken up to the temple in Jerusalem to be dedicated to the Lord God, set aside as a holy child, one whose life was to be lived completely for God. Before he was old enough to form a coherent thought, he was marked as one separated for God’s holy purposes.
We have five children. As we brought each child home from the hospital, we laid them gently on our bed, knelt beside them and gave each child to God. We committed ourselves anew to the sober responsibility of the faithful stewardship every Christian parent must embrace.
“Father, you have given us this precious child. With all of our heart and soul and mind and strength we will endeavor to raise this child to know and love and trust and serve you all his days. We beg you to give us the wisdom and strength and grace to be good and godly parents.”
This is the way we signify that we know our children are holy to the Lord. Soon after in the sacrament of baptism parents renew these vows publicly and in the company of the church family. The minister washes the child in the holy water of baptism, demonstrating that the grace of God does not depend on our children’s merit or knowledge. The Holy Spirit must draw this child to personal saving faith, and this is the first public step.
Like Simeon and Anna, our fellow worshipers rejoice with us in the gift of this holy child. Like Mary and Joseph, the parents marvel that God has given them this precious child.
The first step in one’s Christian life is not a step at all but it is the blessed touch of grace that God bestows upon the child before any steps are even possible. The Christian life is not something we do until first something is done for us and to us. The great blessing of the Christian life is letting God do for us and in us so that, then in time we can be about God’s business ourselves.
Father, thank You for Your tender mercy, that You came to visit us from on high, to give light to us who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace. (Luke 1:78-79)
John Yates has been the rector of The Falls Church Anglican in Falls Church, Virginia, since 1979. John is married to Susan Alexander Yates. They have five adult children and 21 grandchildren.