Sunday, 1 July 2007

The Christening speech by Bishop Erik Norman Svendsen



The christening speech of the Bishop Erik Norman Svendsen

Dearly beloved

“By which name are you going to know her?” This is a question I have been asked many times before the baptism of the princess just as I was asked before Prince Christian’s baptism. Some ask out of curiosity and interest, others want to be the first to publicise the name in the media.

Both intentions are quite understandable. A name is not just a name, but the name or the names always testify about the context which the child is part of. Not least is this the case when it is about a princess or a prince whose name must conform to the royal succession and the Royal Family.

Therefore the question: “Which name are you going to know her by?” Luckily I haven’t known it for long and hence it hasn’t been difficult to keep quiet about the little princess’ name. It is an old tradition to keep the name a secret until the day of baptism even if both parents and the minister already know the name.

Consequently I won’t now ask which name you are going to know her by, but I will ask: “What is the name of the child?”

In baptism the name is revealed, as the child is being called by her name and told that she is now the child of God.

Although little children get a name by being baptised, baptism itself is not first and foremost a ceremony of name giving. Baptism is something else and quite a lot more than that. It is much more like an adoption. God adopts us as his children and we get God as our Heavenly Father. The first prayer after the baptism is therefore the prayer which Jesus taught us himself, namely “Our Father who art in Heaven.” It is being emphasized by the word, which Jesus uses in the prayer about his and our Heavenly Father, Abba, which here is not the name of a Swedish pop group, but the child’s intimate addressing of her Father.

You can get a name in the clerk’s office or recently you can also get a name electronically through your PC. A name might be changed later on if you might wish so. But God’s adoption cannot be acquired from an automatic vending machine or through the PC. God’s adoption is given absolutely free in baptism and it counts whatever happens in our lives. In baptism God allows us to call ourselves his children, and he encloses us in his redeeming love and grants us eternal life. It is exactly the same love as parental love of a child: it is unconditional and always pre-existent to the child’s love for her parents.

In other words, baptism is the entrance to a life long fellowship with God, whom we know and confess as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We know him as the God who not only gives us life but daily revitalises us, and daily wants to get in touch with us, just as Jesus makes it obvious and possible. His words and deeds speak in Spirit and truth to us in a way that we can encounter it heartily. Our Heavenly Father has something to say to us, his children, which has a bearing on our lives with Him and with one another, something which does not only make a difference, but something that is of genuine importance for our lives.

As Jesus says in the Gospel of this Sunday: “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give and it will be given to you” (Luke 6,36-37).

Thus, baptism is different from and much more than a mere ceremony of name giving. It is a token of God’s remaining with us every day and for evermore. Through baptism we are given a new birth into a living hope both here, now and for evermore. This does not mean that life is going to be a bed of roses, but whatever we encounter and whatever happens to us, we do have a fixed point in life, namely that God is our dear Father, and we are his beloved children for evermore.

Nobody has expressed that more beautiful or stronger in Danish than the poet Bernhard Severin Ingemann who as a teacher at Sorø wrote a substantial number of hymns for children praising dawn. His great advantage was that the composer C.E.F. Weyse was inspired by the hymns to compose music, which we still sing. They stay in our heads and most of us know and love to sing them.

For this celebration of baptism the Crown Prince and the Crown Princess have chosen two of these hymns in which God’s love for his children in life and death constantly is stressed in one verse after another. In “The Flowers now Awaken” God is described as the creator who draws attention to all creation, but especially he takes care of human beings and has the deepest love for all the children on earth. He breathes on the eye that cries, i.e. He comforts us, when we need it. God’s son was a child himself and a friend to all children, teaching us to wake up every morning trusting God’s embrace in life and death.

We are not alone but seen, known and loved.

In the hymn after the baptism: “Angel of the Light so Bright” the dawning sun is described as a sign of God’s will to create, and at the same time the radiance of the sun is an image of God’s proximity and concern for every single one despite of our position in society or age.

“King in castle, poor in hut,
See the sunshine peeping
Unto them, no one out-shut!
Kissing children in their cradles sleeping

The Danish poet, Dan Turell, tells about his experience as a boy when he went to school and sang: “Angel of the Light so Bright”. “When I heard the first verse for the first time in my life, I fainted. I collapsed and was carried into the classroom where I regained consciousness after a few minutes, still mumbling, they told me, about the “Angel of the Light”. This image was so strong and pure that it went straight to the heart of a schoolboy of ten.

Baptism is a strong and pure proclamation of God whom Jesus taught us to call upon and pray to. With a never-ending and boundless love God looks upon us. Baptism is therefore the happiest act imaginable of endless perspectives. Everything is perfect harmony as on the day of creation.

In the press release of the 21 April from the Royal Household it said: “Mother and child are well.” Today at the baptism on the 1 July we might as well add: It is good to know that God’s love embraces us in life and death. It does not spare us from evil and harm but God’s love assures us that God sees, knows and loves us – surely we are given a new birth into a living hope.

“We are also loved; the Lord
Won’t a soul be leaving.”

AMEN

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3 Comments:

Blogger Wendy said...

Thank you from Sawtell, New South Wales, Australia for the livestream. Didn't understand a word except "little stool for Prince Christian" and Isabella Henrietta Ingrid Margrethe but enjoyed it tremendously.
Many thanks

12:44 pm  
Blogger Ruth said...

love ya page....

12:53 pm  
Blogger lotte said...

Hi wendy,
At least you understood that - keep at it and you'll be getting the hang of Danish in no time!!!!

...and ruth,
thanks!

lotte :) :)

9:45 pm  

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