Explain the meaning and importance of baptism for Christians.
Baptism is one of the more important parts of any Christian's life, although it has stronger significance for Catholics and Baptists than Anglicans or Protestants.
One of the keys to analysing the importance of baptism lies in the tradition. Baptism is not a Christian concept - it was around with the Jews before Christ was born. John the Baptist told people to be baptised in readiness for Jesus' arrival, to cleanse themselves of sin. Today, there is still the same sense of preparing oneself, via baptism, for Jesus. According to the Catholic viewpoint, a person who dies without being baptised still has original sin and their soul is outside the love of God. Therefore this person cannot be fully accepted into Jesus' company, so the importance of baptism as preparation for Jesus is as strong now as it was then.
For an infant baptism service, the significance is that the child is being welcomed into the church community, who are undertaking a commitment to care for them, look after them and, most significantly, maintain their love and interest in Christ at an early age.
There are differing views on baptism - Catholics believe it is essential, as mentioned above, for the cleansing of original sin, but Protestant theology disagrees. The Protestant way states that children are born without original sin and are innocent at birth, but soon face a choice between right and wrong. They naturally bend against God's will and gravitate to the 'wrong' path, no matter how hard they try. For Protestants, baptism is not salvation, but what precedes it is. When the child (or adult as they may be by then) recognises that he needs the help of God and Jesus to live his life the right way, he has achieved salvation. The baptism is merely backing...