Jesus Welcomes the Childlike

Dan Lovaglia, Camp Pastor, Camp Paradise | December 20, 2023

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
Matthew 19:14

Adults like to declare they’ve outgrown the playfulness of birthdays and Christmas at some point in life. They may like celebrating, just not feeling silly. After all, we’re supposed to become more sophisticated and serious with age, right? How can we mature in what matters if we’re playing around? This thinking creeps into spiritual growth, but God has a different perspective for our hearts to explore.

The significant story of Jesus with the little children is in Matthew 19, Mark 10, and Luke 18. It’s a familiar scene: people showed up with kids for Jesus to bless, and the disciples tried to keep them away. Maybe they thought the Lord was too busy or important to be interrupted. Maybe they didn’t want children climbing on him and getting his robe dirty. Jesus had just warned the disciples in Matthew 18:1-9 against treating kids and the childlike as anything less than the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, and yet they still didn’t get it. It’s no wonder the Lord was indignant as He redirected them.

Jesus looked everyone in the eyes and declared: “Let children get close to me and don’t get in the way of anyone who is childlike either. God’s kingdom is theirs to inherit!” Christ isn’t telling people to never grow up. He calls them, and us, to remain humble, pure in heart, and filled with wide-eyed wonder as part of the heavenly Father’s family. This aligns with the rest of Jesus’ message and ministry in the gospels, where all are welcome at His royal table. Young and old. Rich and poor. Single and married. Divorced and widowed. All who are happy, hurting, healing, and hopeful. Every sinner and saint-in-process. Anyone, and in whatever state they’re in, is welcome with open arms by Jesus if they have a childlike posture of heart.

There are just five more sleeps until Christmas, which means there’s still time to stop taking everything so seriously and celebrate the season of Jesus’ birth. You don’t have to play Elf on a Shelf or dress up like Rudolph to get in the holiday spirit. But maybe you can close your eyes and imagine what it means to have a childlike heart toward Christ at this time of year. My prayer is that we’ll get closer to Immanuel, God with us, and nothing will get in the way for any of us.

Next Steps

What’s the difference between being childish and childlike in relationship with God? Talk to Jesus about this and discuss today’s devotion with someone you trust