A week ago I was in Atlanta for the Festival of Homiletics, an annual event that not only showcases great preachers and lecturers, but also provides opportunities for us preachers to participate in truly amazing worship. On Thursday evening, we celebrated Ascension Day with a nearly 2-hour worship service in a cavernous sanctuary that was packed on all sides. Music was led by members of the Atlantic Symphony Orchestra and the joint choirs of the host church, Peachtree Road United Methodist Church. The magnificent pipe organ added to the experience, and I think we might just have been taken up along with Jesus.
But, there was a baby somewhere in the sanctuary. I had seen at least one mama toting around her young child for much of the conference, so perhaps it was the same baby; I couldn't see from where I was sitting. During this magnificent worship service, at particular moments, silence was pierced by the coos of this pre-verbal child. Who on earth would bring a baby to a two hour worship service?
I thank God that she did. Of all the beautiful music I heard that night, none was more beautiful than the sound of that baby. In fact, I think that a baby in church might just be one of the most beautiful sounds I can think of.
I know not everyone will agree. As a preacher, I don't mind "competing" with baby sounds or even the people who can't take their eyes off an adorable child. Particularly in churches where those over 60 vastly outnumber those under 60, a baby in worship is a tangible reminder that life continues, that God is not done with us yet. It also reminds us that of all the beauty that we create in the world - the soaring cathedrals, beautiful works of art, and perfectly executed symphonies - God's created beauty was the first and will be the final word. If we are bothered by the distraction of a baby in worship, then perhaps we need to examine exactly what is holding our focus so tightly that is keeping us from seeing the beautiful distraction that is God's activity in the world.