I got some very strange looks in Sainsbury’s in Bicester a few weeks ago! I was standing in the baby clothes department clutching a doll in my arms. I kept taking outfits from their hangers and trying them against the doll to check the size. I eventually purchased a white bodysuit, a pair of grey leggings and a pink dress, all newborn size, for my doll. I sat on a chair by the till and dressed her in her lovely new outfit. She looked very pretty, even though the bodysuit was a little too long for her!
The reason for all of this was that I was due to baptise my doll in church as part of a lesson about baptism for Year 1 children from Brill school. The children had chosen a name for the doll, Olivia Poppy Rose, and had allocated roles to various members of the class. There was Mum and Dad, 6 godparents, and a vicar. Dad didn’t seem very keen to hold his “baby” and Mum treated her rather casually, but they all joined in with the baptism responses very seriously and sang “He’s got the whole world in his hands” with great gusto. The vicar looked lovely dressed in my white baptism stole, even though it trailed on the floor in front of her. I showed the children how I make the sign of the cross on the baby’s forehead with oil that has been blessed at Christ Church cathedral in Oxford. Then each child had a go for themselves making the sign of the cross on their own forehead. The newly baptised baby was given a lighted candle to represent the light of Christ passed on to her. We finished the service with a drink and biscuit because of course there is always a party after a baptism. Year 1 were very enthusiastic about that part of the lesson!
During a baptism service we pray that the child being baptised will know the presence of God in their lives. We always pray that the Holy Spirit will be with them on that day and throughout their lives. We can’t see the Spirit of God but we can see the work of the Spirit in our lives and in our relationships. It was a real privilege for me to conduct that special baptism because I believe that I saw the Spirit of God reflected in those children at that particular time. They showed great respect for what was happening, they responded with interest to what I was saying, and there was a genuine warmth and affection between them.
St Paul says that the fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility and self-control (Galatians 5.22). We are truly blessed when we see the fruits of the Spirit manifested in those around us – and often it is through children that we see God’s Spirit at work in our community. No wonder Jesus said that we should become like children if we were to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.