We had the pleasure of conducting a special ceremony for one of our newest little members in our congregation: Noah, who is just 8 months old, a couple of weeks ago.
When Jesus found out that His disciples were holding little children away from Him, He rebuked them - He told them off - because little children are special to God. In contrast to the society of the day, which had come to disdain children, Jesus wanted to make sure that any little child brought to Him had the opportunity to receive a special blessing from their Heavenly Father, God in Heaven.
Although our Western societies have prided themselves on the development of provisions for children throughout the 20th and 21st Centuries, the protection and blessing of children is under threat like never before:
- social pressures keep demanding the lowering of boundaries that once protected children;
- the breakups of families threaten their phyical, emotional, mental and spiritual lives;
- the ready ability of evil people to coordinate their efforts over the internet and other modern means, enables them to target and harm children more and more;
- the ceaseless and relentless undermining of parental rights and obligations and of those parents who wish to raise their children in the Christian faith, let alone any standard that disagrees with the prevailing winds of social mores.
These factors and more continue to make childhood less like what many of us understood as childhood and more like a battleground. This is all the more true in areas of the world which readily approve of child slavery and other like evils.
It was the same for the parents of Jesus' day. Childhood was a never-ending threat.
Those parents and grandparents wanted to see that God would provide special blessing and protection for their children. They knew Jesus was the one to give it.
Jesus understood that and happily gave His blessing. He felt so strongly about it, He said that those children had their own angels (not cute little babies, but powerful spirit beings that would scare the pants off any one of us) always before the face of God and that for anyone who caused one of these little ones to be offended against God, "it would be better that a millstone be hung around their neck and they be thrown into the sea" than have to face the wrath of God and His angelic host!
So today, our church follows the example of Christ. For those parents who request it, we pray officially as a congregation for the "Blessing of the Little Children."
There are a number of things we specifically pray for. One key to the whole intent of the blessing, though, is the assent of the parents to raise their children in Christ and our commitment as a congregation to support that child in Christ. That's the most important thing we can do for our children. And, trust me, having spent a couple of decades now raising my own children, we need every bit of help we can get from God to help us ensure our children grow into healthy, safe, wise, successful young adults connected to the most important element of their life - God. Blessed, indeed.
So congratulations to baby Noah and his whole extended family.