They had been taught that baptism was so important that it was their most solemn and urgent duty to bring their child to the healing waters where the new born would receive new birth. They believed that original sin had left the child in such dire and urgent need that only the healing power of Jesus could answer. In the water their child would receiving the washing away of sin that would make their child a child of God, a temple of the Holy Spirit, and would literally transfer him from kingdom of darkness to the Kingdom of Light. The mother, if she could not be there for the baptism, received her own welcome after her recovery, forty days later, through the now seemingly forgotten liturgical rite known as the “Churching of Women.”
Today baptism is not seen as either that urgent or that important -- it is too often delayed until the large cast of important people among family and friends can be assembled. More important than what takes place is who is there to watch it. Maybe the lower mortality rates of children has dulled our senses to the reality of death or it could be that we no longer listen when the liturgy of Baptism reminds us that the child is dead in trespasses in sin until God intervenes to give that child life and reclaim the baby from the domain of satan and death.
Holy Baptism is a sacrament not a ceremony. It is not about a party or even about family but about the Word and promise of the Lord. St. Paul says that prior to baptism we are dead in our sins ( Eph. 2:1). St. Peter says, “Baptism now saves you” (1 Peter 3:21). Baptism should take place as soon as possible after birth. Cyprian was surprised when someone wrote asking if baptism could or should be delayed to the eighth day after birth (with obvious reference to circumcision. Cyprian's response:
But in respect of the case of the infants, which you say ought not to be baptized within the second or third day after their birth, and that the law of ancient circumcision should be regarded, so that you think that one who is just born should not be baptized and sanctified within the eighth day, we all thought very differently in our council. For in this course which you thought was to be taken, no one agreed; but we all rather judge that the mercy and grace of God is not to be refused to any one born of man (Epistle 58.2, to Fidus).
Today baptism is delayed sometimes months or even years waiting for the magic moment when the people they would like to be there to watch, can be there to see it. In addition, it is not uncommon for baptism to be regularly done outside the Divine Service so that many people cannot even recall the last time a baptism took place in the chief Sunday morning service. If there is any delay justified, it is more so that the baptism can take place within the Divine Service and within the gathered community of the baptized. Baptism's power lies not in the experience or in witnessing it but in the promise of God's Word which He has placed in the water. It is an urgent promise because the need is urgent and the gifts too wonderful to be put off until a right time.
So listen to your pastor. Bring your children to baptism as soon as possible. Do not delay. Do not wait until every odd aunt and uncle can be present for the event. Do not confuse the Sacrament with the ceremonies that accompany it. It is not a show. It is God acting upon His promise and delivering the child from sin and death with the water of life that connects us to Christ's own death and resurrection.