|New Arrivals Day 1999
April 25, 1999
The Family of God at Woodmont Hills began an event called "New Arrivals Day" back in 1987. It is an annual event in our church life that affirms families and calls our entire church body to covenant with the children growing up among us.
We celebrate New Arrivals Day in order to encourage parents in their commitment to train their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (cf. Eph. 6:4). We are your "extended family" in Christ and want to make your job of child-rearing a bit easier. We want to be extra grandpas and grandmas, aunts and uncles, siblings and cousins to your children. For some of them, we will be their primary extended family because of the distance between you and your blood relatives — whether that distance is measured in miles or in emotional detachment.
So today we have selected some readings from Scripture and a few pieces of music that affirm our commitment to model Christ to your children, to surround them with an atmosphere of security and positive influence, and to encourage both you and them should the going ever get rough in their lives. We will pray over you moms, dads, and your babies today. By what we are doing today, we are pledging ourselves to be a positive resource for your family in getting your sons and daughters safely through this world into heaven.
Why "Dedicate" Babies to God?
The dedication of babies to the Lord is at least as old as Hannah’s act of pledging her son, Samuel, to him. She explained to Eli: "I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him. So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord" (1 Sam. 1:27-28).
Parents since the time of the biblical patriarchs have "blessed" their children in the name of the Lord, just as Jacob did his sons before his death (Gen. 49:1ff).
In the New Testament, both the parents of John the Baptist and Jesus received their children as gifts from God, prayed over those babies, and pledged themselves to guide their sons into God’s holy purposes for their lives. Zechariah learned that his son would be born while he was praying in the temple, and he praised God at his birth. "Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and redeemed his people" (Luke 1:68). Mary prayed about her son: "My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me — holy is his name" (Luke 1:46-49).
So what we are doing today is both biblical and holy to the Lord. We also want it to be particularly meaningful to the parents of the infants received into our church family last year through birth and adoption. And we will see that each of the families involved in today’s activities receives an audio cassette of this dedication service and a copy of the eight-minute video that features Robin Rowe’s powerful song about loving children. She wrote the song in the wee hours of a morning in response to a single mother’s decision to abort her baby.
We hope what we are doing today will be meaningful to these people who are babies today but will someday listen to this on a sixteenth, twenty-first, or fiftieth birthday. We have enough confidence in the power of God that we believe the prayers we pray today can make the difference in one or more these lives years after those of us who utter them today have gone to be with the Lord.
Holding Our Children Especially Close
This Sunday morning, there may be an unusual number of parents and children sitting together in worship assemblies across the United States. We are grieving the deaths of twelve high school students at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, and one of their teachers. And we are trying to understand how so much hatred could build up in two other students in that same high school to lead them to plot their murderous scheme for over a year, carry out such a deed, and then take their own lives. Fifteen people are dead from their evil plan.
The first funeral, that of 16-year-old Rachel Scott, was held yesterday. And that process will go on over the next several days. I don’t want to spend all of our time on this point and take away from the joy and excitement of you parents. I simply want to acknowledge what has happened, join our collective voice as a church with others expressing their sympathy today, and say something about Dave Sanders.
William David Sanders was the only adult who died at Columbine High. He was a 48-year-old business teacher and coach. He was shot twice in the chest while leading a dozen students down a hallway to safety. After being wounded, he staggered into a second-floor science classroom, blood streaming from his chest. Students worked feverishly to plug his wounds by ripping pieces of their clothing into bandages. Help didn’t come in time for him, but he lived for about three hours.
Dave Sanders knew he was dying, and so did the kids around him. They used some of their own clothing to make a pillow for his head. They covered him to keep him warm. They tried desperately to keep him alive until paramedics could reach the group. They removed his wallet from his trousers and held pictures of his wife and daughters before his face.
"I’m not going to make it," one of the kids heard Sanders say.
"You’re doing all right," somebody said. "They’re coming. Just hold on! You can do it."
"Tell my girls I love them," Dave Sanders said.
Parents think about their children. We want them to know that we love them, that we think about them, that we want the best for them. But the best gift we can give any of our children is the legacy of a strong, active, vibrant faith.
Parents, you have been entrusted with a priceless treasure from God. You have shared with him in the miracle of creation. In the form of your beautiful children, the Lord has stamped his image and likeness on human form again.
Therefore I charge you, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, to teach and model for your sons and daughters the right ways of the Lord and to walk in them all the days of your lives.
Parents stand and repeat . . .
Holy God, we are filled with joy over your gift to us. We are also filled with awe and fear. O, Lord, we are such imperfect parents in such an imperfect world. Give us your blessing as we nurture [name your child] in the ways of Christ.
To the congregation . . .
The responsibility for these babies is too much for any parents alone. They need the loving support of the larger Family of God at Woodmont Hills as they protect, train, and guide these precious children. I hope you will join me in making this pledge to these parents and their babies:
We will help you bring your children to maturity. We will uphold them with our love, help teach them the Word of God, encourage them when they fail, rejoice with you when they achieve, and be careful not to bruise their tender spirits with harsh words, quick judgments, or cruel criticisms.
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