Recently, it was my son’s baptismal anniversary. As a pastor, you may expect that we light the baptismal candle every year and make a big deal of marking this occasion. But often it slips in as a secondary thought, which was the case this year.
His baptismal anniversary fell in the middle of the week amid homework, meal preparation and scheduled activities, so I was relieved that I at least remembered to say, “Today’s your baptismal anniversary, buddy!” while we were eating supper.
My mom happened to be visiting and told my son, “Your mom can put the sign of the cross on your forehead.” He wasn’t quite as enthusiastic. “She does that every night,” he said, and continued eating.
This made me chuckle, as well as reflect. On one hand, his baptismal anniversary is significant, but I also want him and his sister to know that their baptism is a daily reality. That’s why, although there are many things I lose track of as a parent and many ways I fall short each day, I try to remember to bless each of our kids when I tuck them in at night. “God made you special and we love you very much,” I say as I mark the sign of the cross on their foreheads.
It’s not much, but what I want my kids to learn through this simple bedtime ritual is that God is with them and loves them—no matter what. As their parent, I’d love to be able to protect them from cruelty and harm. Despite this natural inclination, I know how impossible that is.
That’s why what I really want is for them to have tools to handle the yuck and muck of life when it happens. The way I see it, that’s what the blessing of baptism offers. The promise of our baptism reminds us that God has claimed us as God’s own and is with us each day. It reminds us of who we are and where our worth is found. Regardless of the words we use or how often we do so, whenever we remind our kids (and ourselves) of this promise, it’s well worth it.
Before heading out for the day, offer a simple blessing by making the sign of the cross and saying: “God goes with you.” Or jot down this prayer and tape it to your door: “God, thank you for being with us wherever we go. Keep us healthy and safe today. Amen.”
Practice the Epiphany tradition of “the chalking of the doors,” which involves writing the dates of the year and the initials of the magi (traditionally Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar) above the door of one’s home. Mark your door with the symbols: 20 + C + M + B + 20. Offer this prayer: “God, bless our home. May all who enter here know your love and light and peace. Amen.”