I was reading The Everlasting Man today and happened to read a section most appropriate for today's Gospel readings.
"The exaltation of childhood is something which we do really understand; but it was by no means a thing that was then [during Christ's time] in that sense understood. If we wanted an example of the originality of the Gospel, we could hardly take a stronger or more startling one. Nearly two thousand years afterwards we happen to find ourselves in a mood that does really feel the mystical charm of the child; we express it in romances and regrets about childhood, in Peter Pan or The Child's Garden of Verses. And we can say of the words of Christ with so angry an anti-Christian as Swinburne:--
'No sign that ever was given
To faithful or faithless eyes
Showed ever beyond clouds riven
So clear a paradise.
Earth's creeds may be seventy times seven
And blood have defiled each creed
But if such be the kingdom of heaven
It must be heaven indeed.'
But that paradise was not clear until Christianity had gradually cleared it. The pagan world, as such, would not have understood any such thing as a serious suggestion that a child is higher or holier than a man. It would have seemed like the suggestion that a tadpole is higher or holier than a frog. To the merely rationalistic mind, it would sound like saying that a bud must be more beautiful than a flower or that an unripe apple must be better than a ripe one. In other words, this modern feeling is an entirely mystical feeling. It is quite as mystical as the cult of virginity; in fact it is the cult of virginity. But pagan antiquity had much more idea of the holiness of the virgin than of the holiness of the child. For various reasons we have come nowadays to venerate children; perhaps partly because we envy children for still doing what men used to do; such as play simple games and enjoy fairy-tales. Over and above this, however, there is a great deal of real and subtle psychology in our appreciation of childhood; but if we turn it into a modern discovery, we must once more admit that the historical Jesus of Nazareth had already covered it two thousand years too soon. There was certainly nothing in the world around him to help him to the discovery. Here Christ was indeed human; but more human that a human being was then likely to be. Peter Pan does not belong to the world of Pan but the world of Peter."
---GKC in The Everlasting Man, the chapter entitled: "The Strangest Story in the World."