June 27, 2011

Happy Birthday, John!

Filed under: Children and Families,Lectionary — by Lisa Meeder Turnbull @ 6:47 pm

It appears that I don’t treat my favorite biblical characters any better than I treat my own family and friends—I forgot to write on John the Baptist’s birthday last Friday. Oh, I thought about him all day, even saw it marked in my calendar; I thought about all the reasons he is important to me and why his birth story in particular resonates with the life of stewardship. I just didn’t write it down and send it off. Yep; just like my regular family.

John has a way of showing up in all the best parts of the liturgical year—Advent is my favorite and this year he will be with us for two Sundays! And then of course there is the baptism of Jesus. But those are to come. Today we see him as a newborn, at his naming; we share with his family and his community as they celebrate his bris, and marvel at the faith of his parents as stewards of such an unexpected gift.

I find the richness of this scene overwhelming. It carries me through time to my own daughter’s baptism, the Day of Pentecost, 2002. My husband and I had become parents by adoption after infertility. Our commitment to open adoption had expanded our family and our community by way more than just the baby and brought blessings—and responsibilities—we had never imagined. When I read in Luke 1:58 that Elizabeth’s relatives and neighbors rejoiced with her, I remember how our families, friends, co-workers, neighbors, and fellow communicants surrounded us in joy. I even remember the joyful confusion of those who did not know our plans, suddenly seeing me with a baby—a great joke to play on people who saw me fairly regularly, I must say!

I had never, until that Day of Pentecost, realized just how scary that liturgy of Holy Baptism really is! I love the Baptismal Covenant; I even included the Renewal of Baptismal Vows in my marriage liturgy. But until I read it through the eyes of one entrusted with the formation of a Christian child, I just had no idea….

I think that’s why I find this scene from Luke’s Gospel so comforting. Elizabeth and Zachariah are at the older end of the norm for first-time parenting. The people are thrilled for them, but also in awe, asking each other who this child will grow up to be, this child who is clearly touched by the hand of God.

And what does Zachariah do? He prophesies. He reminds the community—and perhaps himself—that theirs is a God who is true to his promises, a God who has come through for them every time. Zachariah gives his neighbors some clues to who John will become, but more importantly he gives us a role model for parenting with faith and confidence. His confidence in his god, gives me confidence in my god.

Zachariah’s kid turned out to be a little odd, but that’s OK. He also turned out to be faithful to his call, faithful to the person God created him to be. And that’s the important thing. That is what we want as parents, as god-parents, as Sunday school teachers, youth leaders, mentors, and priests—to see our kids grow into the fullness of what God wants from them, and for them.

I don’t know who my daughter will be when she grows up. I know that I do my best to be a faithful steward of her formation and well-being. I know that God’s hand is upon her. And I trust that most of the time I do a pretty good job.


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