Congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ:
Let us hear our Lord's command concerning the sacrament of holy baptism. After he had risen victorious from the grave, Jesus said to his disciples: "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age" (Matt. 28:18-20).
In obedience to this command the church baptizes believers and their children.
Let us hear the promises of God which are confirmed in baptism.
The Lord made this great promise to Abraham: "I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you" (Gen. 17:7).
In later years, though Israel was unfaithful, God renewed his promise through the prophet: " 'This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,' declares the Lord. 'I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, "Know the Lord," because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,' declares the Lord. 'For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more' " (Jer. 31:33-34).
In the fullness of time God came in Jesus Christ to give pardon and peace through the blood of the cross, the "blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins" (Matt. 26:28).
After Jesus had risen from the dead, the apostles proclaimed: "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off--for all whom the Lord our God will call" (Acts 2:38-39).
Anticipating the fulfillment of God's promises, Paul assures us, "If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him" (2 Tim. 2:11-12).
These are the unfailing promises of our Lord to those who are baptized.
Let us also recall the teaching of Scripture concerning the sacrament of baptism.
The water of baptism signifies the washing away of our sin by the blood of Christ and the renewal of our lives by the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5). It also signifies that we are buried with Christ (Rom. 6:4). From this we learn that our sin has been condemned by God, that we are to hate it and consider ourselves as having died to it. Moreover, the water of baptism signifies that we are raised with Christ (Col. 2:12). From this we learn that we are to walk with Christ in newness of life. All this tells us that God has adopted us as his children, "Now if we are children, then we are heirs--heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ" (Rom. 8:17).
Thus in baptism God seals the promises he gave when he made his covenant with us, calling us and our children to put our trust for life and death in Christ our Savior, deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow him in obedience and love.
God graciously includes our children in his covenant, and all his promises are for them as well as us (Gen. 17:7; Acts 2:39). Jesus himself embraced little children and blessed them (Mark 10:16); and the apostle Paul said that children of believers are holy (1 Cor. 7:14). So, just as children of the old covenant received the sign of circumcision, our children are given the sign of baptism. We are therefore always to teach our little ones that they have been set apart by baptism as God's own children.
The Prayer of Preparation
Father in heaven, we pray that you will never destroy us in our sin as with the flood, but save us as you saved believing Noah and his family, and spare us as you spared the Israelites who walked safely through the sea.
We pray that Christ, who went down into the Jordan and came up to receive the Spirit, who sank deep into death and was raised up Lord of life, will always keep us and our little ones in the grip of his hand.
We pray, O holy Father, that your Spirit will separate us from sin and openly mark us with a faith that can stand the light of day and endure the dark of night.
Prepare us now, O Lord, to respond with glad hope to your promises so that we, and all entrusted to our care, may drink deeply from the well of living water. We pray in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen!
The Vows [The minister addresses the parents]:
Since you have presented these children for holy baptism, you are asked to answer the following questions before God and his people:
First, do you confess Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, accept the promises of God, and affirm the truth of the Christian faith which is proclaimed in the Bible and confessed in this church of Christ?
Second, do you believe that your children, though sinful by nature, are received by God in Christ as members of his covenant, and therefore ought to be baptized?
Third, do you promise, in reliance on the Holy Spirit and with the help of the Christian community, to do all in your power to instruct these children in the Christian faith and to lead them by your example to be Christ's disciples?[The parents respond] : We do, God helping us.[The minister addresses the congregation] : Do you, the people of the Lord, promise to receive these children in love, pray for them, help instruct them in the faith, and encourage and sustain them in the fellowship of believers?
[The congregation responds]: We do, God helping us.
The Sacrament [The minister may say]:
Our Lord said: "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these" (Mark 10:14).[In administering the sacrament the minister shall say] :
(name), I baptize you into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
A Triumphant Hymn
The Baptismal Prayer
Lord our God, forever faithful to your promise, we thank you for assuring us again that you will forgive us and receive us as children in Christ. Grant wisdom and love to the parents and to us all as we carry out the vows we have just made. We pray that you will guide our little ones throughout their lives. Enable them to respond in faith to the gospel. Fill them with your Spirit and make their lives fruitful. Give them strength to endure trials. And when Christ returns, let them celebrate with all the people of God your greatness and goodness forever in the joy of your new creation. Amen.