[Hannah said,] “I give him to the Lord. For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord.”
The story of Hannah and Samuel can help us understand the transition of identity that takes place in baptism. Hannah had not been able to bear a child, but she prayed, asking that if God would give her a child, she would give him to the Lord “for all the days of his life” (1 Samuel 1:11). God answered her prayer, and she eventually brought her little boy to Eli the priest to begin his training in the service of the Lord. And Samuel served God faithfully for many years.
In a way like what Hannah did, giving up her beloved child to God’s service, in baptism we give children to be a part of Christ’s church and kingdom, in which we are called to serve the Lord. The child’s primary identity shifts to become part of the church, the family of God. In baptism, we recognize that the Lord claims and sets the child apart as his own. And the child is introduced to their new church family (which extends across history and geography). The parents or caregivers are then entrusted to raise the child in the Christian faith, with the church’s help.
Bringing a child for baptism is therefore a profound act of faith, because the child may be called to serve God in radical or even dangerous ways for Christ’s kingdom. Even so, the Spirit assures us that each one’s destiny is always in God’s hand (John 10:27-30).
Lord, thank you for calling us to be your own. We give our whole lives over to you, for you gave yourself completely for us. Use us for your purposes. Amen.
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