Saturday 21 January 2006

The bishop's speech

 border=The christening speech of the Bishop Erik Norman Svendsen
Amalienborg, 21st January 2006

Filled with joy and gladness at life’s wonder
in our hands a newborn child presenting
come we now to you, who life has given.

Filled with trembling at the unknown future
we command our child into your keeping,
reassured by your baptismal promise
(The Hymnbook 448 verses 1 – 2)

In these two opening verses from one of the new baptismal hymns in the Danish Hymnbook the reasons for bringing our children to baptism are clearly expressed. This can be expressed in four well-known words: Joy, Gratitude, Care, Trust.

Looking at the photos of this young family whose child is being christened today their joy is visible and unmistakeable: The proud announcement by the Crown Prince at the hospital that the Crown Princess had given birth to a healthy son as well as the Crown Princess’ warm smile on leaving the maternity ward with the newborn prince: “It makes you so happy!” were her words to the photographers.

All parents can recall their own happiness at the birth of their child as expressed in these images. You really are “filled with joy and gladness at life’s wonder”.

And you are filled with gratitude too. Having a child is a gift so great that it calls for the greatest thankfulness. Bringing your child to be baptised today is a sign that your gratitude is directed to God who gave us life. To whom else should we give thanks for the gift of life than to God, the Creator of all life!

Becoming a parent, however, also means entering into all kinds of worries and concerns. All parents know that. We worry about our children when they are young and dependent but also when they begin to grow up and encounter problems and difficulties. In a way our children never grow away from us. As long as parents are alive they will be concerned with or without reason. Because the nature of loving means caring about those whom we love.

Instinctively we ask ourselves: What will become of the child when he grows up? Will he do well and cope with the tasks before him? Will he have a good life where the joys outweigh the sorrows and the duties do not exceed his abilities and strength?

In earlier times royal children were baptised at the palace shortly after their birth in the very same baptismal silver dish which we use today. It was considered desirable that they be baptised as soon as possible owing to the high rate child mortality of those times. Fortunately this is no longer so, but we all know the fear of losing our child. It is a fear that fills all parents with anxiety.

“Reassured by your baptismal promise” the hymn tells us. This is the feeling with which we bring our children to be baptised. When you bring a child to baptism you in a sense place him in God’s hands which, unlike our hands, will never loose their grip or let us go. We then know that this child is safe no matter what shape his life may take. We cannot let go of our concerns and worries, but we can share them with God, known to us as our Heavenly Father through his son Jesus Christ. In baptism we hand our child over to God and ask God to be with him. “Reassured by your baptismal promise.”

Before The Little Prince as he has been known to us until today in a moment will be baptised, I shall make the sign of the cross before his face and his breast and declare that it is “as witness that he shall belong to the crucified Lord Jesus Christ.” This sign is not only used in baptism. I have noticed that many churchgoers these days make the sign of the cross when they receive the blessing and that many young people wear a cross as jewellery.

This is clearly a reference to the death of Jesus on the cross. By making the sign of the cross upon the children, or wearing a cross, we proclaim that we belong to Jesus Christ in life as in death and consequently shall live, die and rise with him.
Today your child enters into life-long partnership with Him, who died and rose again for us. Although it is the pastor who baptises the child it is Christ himself who works through the baptism and offers to us his life-long partnership which will bring us safely through all sin and death.

“And lo I am with you always, even unto the end of the World,” Jesus says in his Commission. This promise does not depend on us but on him who is God incarnate, flesh and blood. That promise remains whether we are baptised as little children or as adults. God himself upholds the baptism and the promise given therein. No one is exempt from this, we cannot resist the grace of God. However, we cannot benefit from the joy and blessing of this promise until we get to know about it and dare to believe in it. This is the reason why we as parents must teach our children about the Christian faith and pray that our children may remain in Christ as they have been grafted unto him through baptism.

As a Christian you are in a sense reborn, not into this world but into the Kingdom of God. This is the kingdom of love which is near to us in Jesus, and will remain forever, even to the end of the world. We are reborn to a living hope.

Through your work, through love’s divine intention
we are born anew in Christ our Saviour
freed to live a life in faith’s assurance.

Till the end of time, now and forever
your own promise at the font continues
We may die, your word will stand eternal
(The Hymnbook 448 verses 4-5)



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Blogger lotte said...

Thanks rosanna!
We still have many, many more pictures which we will post in some new posts here and on CPMEMB. There was just so much to do, we concentrated on photos of Frederik, Mary and Christian. We are both somewhat sleep deprived today but we will keep at it, so stay tuned.
I also thought it was a beautiful christening. What a shock! :)

6:44 am  

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