Allow me to share a stroke of brilliance of the Lutheran school I attended. Once a month in chapel services, from the time I was in kindergarten, all the way through high school, there was a celebration of the baptismal birthdays for that month. It was done in a variety of ways, but the point was that we were celebrating the new life that each of us had received in Christ, for some when we were infants, for others when they were older. Each month, we were recognized, prayed for, and celebrated.
The result of this is that I remember my baptismal birthday, when I otherwise may have forgotten it long ago. Because of those monthly chapel services in which we remembered our baptisms, I remember that I was baptized on December 13, 1981. I know that on that day, God claimed me as His own precious child through the waters of Holy Baptism.
Now while I said that this was a stroke of brilliance of a Lutheran school, I should say that this brilliance was the result of sin. It is not the job of Lutheran schools to remind children of the date of their baptism; that is the job of parents and sponsors.
Today, many parents and many sponsors have completely outsourced the job of reminding children of their baptisms to schools and churches. It is a common suggestion that families light the baptismal candle on the anniversaries of the baptism, but I think it would be fair to say that many baptismal candles have never been lit since the day they were first lit during the service of baptism.
The results of this neglect are devastating.
Many would consider it a stretch to say that many of the temptations and sins that afflict so many younger people are the result of them not remembering their baptism, but is it really that far of a stretch? Is it really a stretch to say that the couple living outside of marriage is doing so because they were never taught what it meant to be a child of God? Is it really a stretch to say that the young girl who dresses in a provocative manner does so because she has not been reminded repeatedly that she has been claimed by God? Is it really a stretch to say that the young boy who uses foul language does so because he has not been reminded that he has been marked by the sign of the cross?
I do not think that it is a stretch at all that if you do not remind children that they are baptized and teach them what that means, not just in Sunday school, not just in confirmation class, but every day, that you will get what we have today: people leaving the church in droves, because as far as they can tell, it does not mean anything, and that starts first and foremost with their baptism.
So what can we do?
Well it would be nice if everyone taught the faith in their homes and raised godly children and stopped outsourcing everything to the church, but the reality is that we do not have time for that. In the long run, that is what needs to happen, but we need more immediate solutions.
I believe it is time for the Church to stop bemoaning the lack of religion in the home, and just do the job itself. It is time for the Church to take a more pro-active stance in reminding people of their baptisms; if parents and sponsors refuse to do it, well then they are fired, and the Church must step in.
The Church does not need to do anything spectacular or otherworldly, they can do the same thing that sponsors are advised to do: simply sending a card reminding the person of their baptismal birthday and assure them that the congregation is praying for them on that day. A congregation can also start listing baptismal birthdays in the bulletin, and let everyone in on the secret that baptism means something.
It is also time for the Church to be more proactive in teaching the faith. Again, in our modern day and age, the assumption must be made that it is not happening in the majority of homes. Blogs, videos, audio, and devotionals are a start to reaching people beyond what happens in the church building on Sunday morning.
Now the focus of this post has largely been on younger people, but if parents are not reminding their children of their baptisms, the odds are pretty good that they do not remember theirs either; and so the same methods used of the young, may in fact also need to be exercised on the adults.
And in a generation, we will have a new crop of parents who will have been reminded of the importance and significance of their baptisms, and they will know that they need to teach their children accordingly.
And the whole Church will benefit.