When Kaya was five months old, we dedicated her and ourselves to God, in a little ceremony at our church in Luxembourg. I squeezed her chubby body into the only white dress I had for her, her godparents stood up next to us, and we promised to let God be our guide as we raise her, to trust her to his love and grace.
Fast forward two years, and our son, Oskar James, was already eleven months and undedicated. We moved country mid-pregnancy and he was born in the living room of our rental house a few months later. When we got here we did the good Christian thing of visiting local churches with the view to quickly finding one to settle in. But we haven’t settled. We visited some great churches, but for a lot of reasons the last few months our Sunday mornings have been more likely to consist of making pancakes in our pyjamas and building duplo towers. And we’re ok with that for now.
But it presented a dilemma when we wanted to dedicate Oskar. We could arrange to do it at one of the churches we’d visited, but the idea that most of the congregation would be turning to their neighbour asking, “who are they?” when we walked up front made me feel really uncomfortable. Our pastor in Luxembourg kindly offered to do it back there if we visited, and that community will always feel like family, so the idea was attractive.
One day I asked Rasmus what he thought about doing a DIY dedication. We’ll invite our family and just a few friends, I told him. We can use the same script that we had for Kaya (which I mostly wrote myself) and keep it really simple. I think I was a little surprised when he quickly agreed.
And so it happened this past Sunday. My family and Oskar’s god/guideparents came over, including our dear friends from Copenhagen. We waited until he woke up from his morning nap, made cups of tea and coffee for everyone and then gathered around.
Our living room is not big, and we were nine adults and two little ones. But that meant that the circle was tight. Rasmus and I sat on the floor in front of the fireplace. Kaya and Oskar trundled around between all of us – Kaya moving from lap to lap, Oskar keeping up the continual movement of a baby who has just achieved the freedom of walking.
We sat in that circle and made promises to our son. Rather than the more formal question-answer structure of a church ceremony, we chose to just speak our promises directly to him. We promised that our love would be unconditional, to try to be good at saying sorry, quick to forgive. We promised to model the radically inclusive and grace-filled ways of Jesus to him, and to pray for him continually.
And we spoke blessings over him, blessing him with the values we hope he will embody as he grows – with kindness, curiosity, courage, hospitality, and love, oh most of all love.
My parents and sister prayed for us, and our friends confirmed their willingness to be an intentional and loving presence in Oskar’s life.
And then that was it. We asked Kaya what we should do next and her eyes lit up. “CAKE!” So we served up the cake that she and I had baked that morning in our pyjamas and I sat in that circle of love, eating my cake and feeling such a sense of contentment and peace.
Oskar is my holy interruption. I didn’t plan to be pregnant again so soon after Kaya, and I was not entirely impressed with the timing, coming as he did in the middle of an international move and pretty effectively squashing all my dreams for what our life here was going to look like. But I have never not wanted him. This past year has been intense and frequently hard, but it feels like perfect timing that we dedicate him just a month before his birthday. Now I stand with nearly twelve months of hindsight and it feels like pure grace to enclose him within this small circle of love, to proclaim him beloved.
If it felt meaningful, I recognised this week that it is because our own little circle of love was encircled in a deeper and everlasting love, the love of God. That love flows in us and through us to that toddling boy in our midst, and will sustain us and him as long as our hearts remain open to it, and even then it won’t fail. God’s love never fails.
Oskar James, you have been loved since long before you were born. Your parents were blessed with your arrival and we consider your presence in our lives to be a gift of God. As a little baby your parents cover and clothe you in their love and with their faith. As you grow, may faith grow with you. May you find the presence of Christ your clothing and protection. And year by year may the knowledge of His presence be greater for you, that daily you may put on Christ and walk as His own in the world. Amen.
(adapted very slightly from the Northumbria Community Celtic Daily Prayer)