At Your Baptism
Carrie Steenwyk and John D. Witvliet, illus. Linda Saport
A couple of months ago, I was sitting amidst the variously strewn odds and ends of my life, trying to organize it into boxes, and chatting with the children’s pastor from our church. She asked if we had come across any good books on baptism, and I had to admit that I at least hadn’t.
A week later, those same boxes and I arrived at the doorstep of our house in San Francisco. And just inside the door was a package from Eerdmans, containing a review copy of At Your Baptism. I love getting books in the mail! And really, it couldn’t have been more timely: my conversation with Liz was fresh in my mind, and our son was baptized this year at Easter. Only – drat. Here came the movers with all those darn boxes.
Once we got it all cleared away, though, I was delighted to sit down with this little volume. It is that most rare of things: a board book simple enough to read to a baby, but with theological acumen and depth. John Witvliet is the director of the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship; his co-author, Carrie Steenwyk, is a project manager at the Institute. Together, they’ve crafted a book that is short and simple – but deeply grounded in God’s covenant promises imparted at baptism.
The text itself is taken from the French Reformed baptismal liturgy. The book opens with, “At your baptism, God tells you that…” and what follows, at the top of each page, is a simple recitation of Jesus’ life, death, resurrection and ascension. And each page reminds us that he did it all for us, before we knew him or desired him.
I love this book’s emphasis (in keeping with the Reformed tradition) on how unconditional God’s promises are. Baptism, this book reminds us, is where we hear God’s promises and find out that they’re really for us. He makes promises to his people, and then makes us his people by washing away our sin. “All this he did,” this book reminds us, “before you knew anything of it.”
Obviously this book would be ideal for a family that practices infant baptism – I, for one, have placed it prominently in my son’s book corner. But although it is a board book, I’d still consider giving it to an older child being baptized as a believer. What child doesn’t need to hear these beautiful words of encouragement? “Remember that you are part of God’s worldwide family. No one can ever take these promises away from you!”