Wednesday 01 January 2014

Bible Book:

Luke 2:15-21 Wednesday 1 January 2014


It is clear from this passage that the traditions aroundchildbirth were not only very important, but also lasted not justfor a few days but for the forty days of many of the Jewish faithtraditions. Here we have the beginning of the process. Theexcitement of the visitation of the shepherds is over and they havegone away rejoicing to tell the good news (the first evangelists?)and the day has come for the rabbi to come and circumcise the boy.We are not told the venue for the ceremony, although it would seemunlikely that the family were still living in the cattle shed. Butdespite the trauma of the birth, it is clearly important thatcircumcision on the eighth day was important to them, and theynamed the child Jesus as they had been told to do by the angel somemonths before. Six weeks or so later they would go from home, aswould any family with a new born child, to the temple to presenttheir child to the priests for a blessing and for Mary to becleansed from the uncleanliness of childbirth and for normal lifeto be resumed.

It is in from this part of Luke's Gospel that the Churchdeveloped the traditions which have surrounded childbirth for manycenturies. I personally was 'churched' six weeks after the birth ofthe first three of my children, nowadays such a service is termed"Thanksgiving after childbirth", sometimes separated from theBaptism of the child, sometimes included in the worship when thefamily presented themselves at church. These days this traditionhas often gone, for the children who are brought for Baptism areoften much older than the six weeks or so (which was thetraditional pattern). Nevertheless, in my experience, parents whocome asking for Baptism in general want to mark the birth of theirchild in a special place and, contrary to many opinions, findthemselves drawn to the Church and to the God they scarcely know togive thanks. But is the Church willing to make these who come tobring their child or children welcome encouraging them with wordsof love to begin a new journey within the promises they make?

To Ponder

  • Should the Church make it harder for parents to come to 'use'the church for Baptism when they have no real intention to becomeinvolved in the congregation? Why?
  • How far should we make them welcome as friends when they come,rather than seeing them as strangers, so that they will want tocome back and become part of the church family?
  • Or should we offer infant Baptism only to those who areprepared to commit themselves to faith? Why?
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