“Sundays are hard for babies,” a church member said sympathetically as she handed back my crying daughter. It’s a truth universally acknowledged. On Sundays, the carefully orchestrated nap schedule of the other six days bends and then snaps under the constraints of morning and evening worship. On Sundays, the quiet interactions of family life fade below the noise of an entire congregation. On Sundays, handfuls of Cheerios bridge the gap between one delayed meal and another. On Sundays, things are different.
The weekly interruption of Sunday often leaves Christian parents discouraged and fatigued. Carrying our fussy littles ones to the minivan after worship, we wonder if Sundays are good for children. It can seem much easier to stay home and stick to the usual routine.
Of course, we ought to have compassion on our children every day of their lives. We recognize that they are weak, and we meet their physical and emotional needs with love and mercy. We remember to bring those Cheerios and that comforting scrap of tattered blanket. But we cannot escape the fact that on Sundays, everything is different. And that’s actually a good thing.
If the Lord has called this day blessed (Ex. 20:11) and has made it for our good (Mark 2:27) then we can rejoice in it, not only for ourselves but also for our little ones. The day that comes with proscriptions and provisions for sons and daughters, employers and employees, animals and guests, comes with blessing for babies too. On Sundays, the Lord teaches us—even the youngest of us—something about himself and his grace.
God Is the Lord of Time
On Sundays, we acknowledge that God is the author and ruler of time itself. At creation, God made time. He separated light from dark and established the daily cycle of morning and evening (Gen. 1:3–5). At creation, God also organized those days into a pattern of six and one (Gen. 2:1–3): six days for ordinary work and recreation, one day for rest (Ex. 20:11).
Once a week, the Lord breaks into our routine and reminds us that naptimes and snacktimes are not ultimate.
As tempting as it might seem to believe we are masters of our own time—carefully manipulating an interlocking puzzle of Google calendar entries—we are not. God is the one who created time, who set us in it and bound us by it, and God is the one who rightfully directs us how to use it. When we submit to his pattern of six and one, we acknowledge that God is the Lord of time.
For our children, too, the disruption of Sunday is a chance to remember that even our schedules are under the Lord’s authority. Once a week, the Lord breaks into our routine and reminds us that naptimes and snacktimes are not ultimate, nor are they determined by our own desires. In all things, we serve the Lord.
God’s People Are a Corporate People
On Sundays, we affirm that God’s people are a corporate people. We are not lone disciples, following Christ on a solitary path to holiness and heaven. We are a church. Christ came to redeem and perfect his whole body (Eph. 4:1–16). When we gather as the church, we remember that we who belong to Christ also belong to the body of which he is the head.
On Sundays, silence gives way to congregational singing, solitude disappears in a crowd of faces, and the Word read in private rings out as the Word preached in public. For our children, Sundays are filled with new sounds, new smells, and new people. This is an opportunity to learn that God is not merely the Lord of individuals or families, but he is the Lord of a vast multitude of people—so many people that not even a grown-up could count them all (Rev. 7:9). To little ones, the gathered church seems overwhelmingly huge. From the perspective of eternity, it is.
Rest Better than Sleep, Food Better than Lunch
Sundays are given to us as a day of rest—a reminder of God’s rest at creation and a foretaste of the saints’ everlasting rest in heaven. But the Lord’s Day rest is not simply an extended afternoon nap. True rest is found in pausing from our ordinary work and, as the Westminster Confession explains it, engaging in “the public and private exercises of his worship, and in the duties of necessity and mercy.” In those activities, we recharge our souls. On Sundays, God gives us a rest even better than sleep.
Sundays are also a day of feasting. The Puritans used to call the Lord’s Day “the market-day of the soul.” Just as a market boasts tables overflowing with nutritious meat and bread and produce, the Lord’s Day offers sweet and nourishing supplies for our soul. When we gather to worship the Lord in the assembly of the saints, we learn from his Word and grow in our love for him.
All of this is good news for little children. Sundays may mean disrupted naps and delayed meals, but our children are trading earthly provision for something far better for their undying souls. On Sundays, everything is rearranged so that they might hear the Word proclaimed in the power of the Spirit. On Sundays, every ordinary thing takes a lesser place in favor of “the one thing necessary” (Luke 10:42).
I often wonder about those children whose parents brought them to Jesus so he could pray for them (Matt. 19:13–15). Probably some had to miss their naps and eat a later lunch. They may have been fussy and overstimulated by the crowds. But for the rest of their lives, they would know that Mommy and Daddy brought them to Jesus. For the rest of their lives, they would be changed because the Lord took them in his arms and interceded for their souls.
Every Sunday, Christian parents have an opportunity to bring their little ones to Jesus. It might be disruptive. But that’s a good thing.