There is a car seat in my living room.
Or at least it was in my living room, until I put it into a storage locker in my garage.
The car seat appeared in my living room courtesy of my daughter. She ordered it, and unpacked it, and then returned to her home in Brazil without it. The car seat is doing a remarkable job of making real the news that, if all goes well, I will become a grandmother in about six months time.
The car seat has layers of cushioning so it can be adjusted as the baby grows.
Looking at the shape of the little recliner, touching the straps and buckles, I can almost see the actual infant tucked into the secure confines of the world’s best transport device.
It must be the world’s best, or my daughter would not have chosen it, had it delivered to my apartment, and given me the assignment of bringing it with me when I go to São Paulo for the birth.
Yes, the car seat is going to be my travel companion.
Luckily, flights to Brazil come with generous luggage allowances. And while I wait for the day of departure, I find myself doing the very thing I’ve observed many other new or about-to-be grandparents doing: visualizing the details of a baptism before it has even occurred to the parents to plan for or consider such a thing.
I am keeping a catalogue open on my desk with pictures of baptismal socks, baptismal shells and children’s books about baptism. I actually said to my daughter, “Oh, if you come to California for that professional conference when the baby is a few months old, we can have the baptism then!”
How many times have I received inquiries from grandparents asking about how to arrange for their grandchildren’s baptism and had to gently break it to them that it’s up to the parents to decide whether, when, where and how to have their baby baptized?
“We would be honored to baptize your grandchild,” I always say, speaking for the church I serve, “and we’ll need to hear from, or meet with, the parents first.” Suddenly, I have a new appreciation for the grandparent’s perspective.
It makes sense that our dreams move so quickly to baptism.
It's through baptism we can publicly and tangibly express our love and welcome to a child we already treasure. Through baptism we announce God’s grace is already present in the child’s life and will continue to be so. We proclaim there will always be a way home and the promise of a welcoming embrace into God’s mercy is ever before us. We declare God is faithful and will be working for good in and through the child’s life.
According to the gospels, when Jesus was baptized, a voice from heaven affirmed, “You are my Son, the beloved. With you I am well pleased.” (Luke 3:22)
This is the message we grandparents are eager to convey to our grandchildren: “You are beloved to me and to the family of faith. I rejoice that you have come into the world.” So of course we cannot resist suggesting the wonderful event be scheduled! We need to do something with all our enthusiasm.
In the United Methodist Church, we baptize persons at any age, from infancy to senior adult.
We view baptism as a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence because God’s love for us never wears out or wears off.
We recognize the baptisms of other Christian denominations. We give young people a chance to confirm the path and the community their parents chose for them when they were small. And, we encourage everyone to remember their baptism with gratitude at the various ages and stages of their lives.
Other Christian groups may have different practices about who is eligible for baptism, and we vary in whether we baptize by scooping water onto a person’s head or by inviting them to submerge themselves in a tank or body of water.
Yet, for all of us, baptism connotes the blessing of God’s Spirit, offering hope, grace, peace and guidance in all circumstances.
I can’t stop thinking about that car seat.
I keep imagining the little arms and fists and the tiny fingers, the compact body, the still-curved legs and the curled toes, the perfect head and the amazing face that will nestle cozily within it.
It is too soon to know what this baby will be like as a person ... but I’ve been persuaded: it’s not too soon to start planning for baptism!