Blessing and Dedicating Babies
It is nearly fourteen years since my attention was first called to the practice of publicly blessing infants in some Seventh-day Adventist churches. It was a new and somewhat disturbing experience for me. I was somewhat hesitant and a little dubious as to its orthodoxy, since I had never known any of our ministers to participate in such a ceremony. I felt inclined to refuse when a young mother approached me on the subject, lest I should be imitating a ceremony of the worldly churches. Then I had a second thought and decided I should feel better satisfied to make a mistake on the side of kindness than on the side of oversolicitude as to possible unfavorable comment. I remembered Jesus' comment when the mothers came to Him with their infants and children with the request for His blessing, and His loving-kindness to them all.
Since that time I have listened to a good many comments, some for and some against this practice. Some have said, "What are we coming to? Must we copy other churches in the public blessing of infants, as well as in other forms and rituals, in choir robes, processionals, and the like, until we are no longer a simple, 'peculiar' people? And if infant blessing is proper, why not have godfathers and godmothers and everything else that other churches have?"
All this drove me to a new searching of the Scriptures. I found that Jesus "was much displeased" (Mark 10 :14) with His disciples for their rebuking the parents who brought their little ones to Him "that He should put his hands on them, and pray." Matt. 19:13. It was upon that occasion that Jesus uttered the memorable words which have since been the subject of the poet's pen, and the artist's brush: "Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto Me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven." Verse 14.
There is no command in the Scriptures regarding the public blessing of infants, of course. It is true that in the old dispensation they were presented before the Lord in the temple, but this applied only to the firstborn and had to do with the redemption price—something quite foreign to the question at issue. There is no hint that Jesus had suggested to the mothers in Israel that they should bring their children. It was entirely spontaneous on their part, and they persisted in spite of the rebuffs of His disciples, who, like their modern counterparts, were concerned lest a precedent be established and their Master's time and strength be spent unprofitably.
When they came He welcomed them and granted their request so lovingly, so graciously, that the story has come down through the ages, to glow in the heart of every mother and deepen her love for the gentle Lord who loved little children and made time in His busy life to stop and bless them. That it was in accord with His will is shown in The Desire of Ages, where it is stated that "He Himself had drawn them into His presence." For this reason it seems to me that if substantially the same conditions are observed, if no special emphasis is placed upon the ceremony, and if it is reserved for those times when a mother makes a special request for it, we, as followers of Christ, can do no less than take His example as our pattern.
Regarding the ceremony itself, since I have never been present when another minister officiated, I can speak only from my own experience as regards the procedure. I do not make any attempt to make a conventional or formal occasion of it; but rather use it as an opportunity to impress the young mother with a sense of my love and interest, as a servant of Christ, in her child's future soul development and in the love of God for her as she trains the child for God. My custom has been to meet the mother with the child at the front of the church in the presence of the congregation, much as one does in giving the right hand of fellowship to baptismal candidates. If possible I have the father there too. As they stand together, facing the minister, while I face the congregation, I read a fairly short, appropriate selection from the Scriptures, such as from Matthew 18:1-6, 10; 19:13-15; or 1 Samuel 1:27, 28; 2:1, 2, 26; or Luke 2:20, 22, 25-34.
Following the reading, I take the child from the mother and hold it as I offer a prayer in which I ask God to let the blessing of heaven rest upon this child; that he may be protected by the angel of the Lord from the evil that is in the world ; that he may have unfailing protection and guidance ; that his mother and father may be given more than human patience, wisdom, and love in training the little one to love and revere his heavenly Father; and that the parents and the child may be kept faithful unto the end, so that when the Master calls us home for the great reunion not one shall be missing in that day. Upon concluding the prayer I say: "To this end we dedicate this lamb of the ock [full name] to the heavenly Shepherd, Jesus hrist, and it is our prayer that he may be led in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake,' that 'goodness and mercy' may follow him all the days of his life, and that eventually he may 'dwell in the house of the Lord forever.'"
It is well to consider the influence of such a ceremony. It has been my observation that it is helpful to the mother in keeping faithful in the spiritual guidance of her child. Like Mary of old, the mother will keep "all these sayings in her heart." She will treasure the memory of that occasion, in which her little one was publicly dedicated to God. She will try to do all in her power, by the help of God, to fulfill that noble destiny for the child. It is likely that she will tell the child, as he grows older, of that solemn dedication, and it may influence his later decisions in his course of life. We are told in The Desire of Ages, page 512, that of the children Jesus blessed, some became "subjects of His kingdom" and "martyrs for His sake."
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