After living for some time in Germany, where our children often seemed unwelcomed, imagine our surprise to visit Poland, where our children were not only welcomed, but publicly praised and made the center of attention. Perhaps a lack of child friendliness in religious matters was the reason that the disciples shooed them away from Jesus in Matthew 19. However, Jesus made one of his usual countercultural statements, that the kingdom of heaven belongs to such people.
Children matter in the kingdom of heaven. Yet, how often have we heard in church, usually little old ladies complain about children and their noise! It seems that children are often not made to feel welcomed in our churches. What a contradiction! Children do not conform easily to formalities, and perhaps that is one reason why Jesus said that the kingdom of heaven belongs to such people. Perhaps our stiff and unbending not so child-friendly formalities also have very little to do with the kingdom of heaven.
This experience is often seen as a forerunner of the dedication of children or the baptism of infants. Yet, this informal experience itself seems to totally contradict such later formalities. The laying on of hands as a blessing was certainly widely used throughout Bible history, but this in no way indicates a formal ceremony that now needs to be scheduled into the liturgical life of a child.
Rather than holding any special significance for later church ceremonies like child baptism or infant dedication, perhaps we ought to simply take the lesson at face value, and learn to treat children as Christ would have us do.