Read an Excerpt
Children's Activities for the Christian Year
By Delia Halverson
Abingdon PressCopyright © 2004 Abingdon Press
All rights reserved.
THE CHRISTIAN YEAR
By using the Christian year we relive the life of Christ each year and the impact that Christ's followers had, and are having, on the world. On the morning of the Resurrection, sorrow turned to joy, and the first day of the week became special to the disciples and friends of Jesus. They continued to worship with their religious Hebrew community, but a new layer of meaning had been added. To remember that additional meaning to life, the early Christians came together on every first day. The event of the Resurrection so affected their lives that early Christians began to celebrate the day each year. The celebrations of the Christian year began with what we presently call Easter. And so the weekly celebration of Sundays and the annual celebration of Christ's resurrection became the foundation of our current Christian calendar.
Christians of the third century held three-day celebrations of Jesus' death and resurrection during the time of Passover. This celebration has expanded to now include the whole of Holy Week. Many churches celebrate in some manner each day during that week, while others only celebrate on Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, and Good Friday, plus Easter Sunday.
The next celebration that the early church added to the church calendar was Pentecost, with an emphasis on the coming of the Holy Spirit and the celebration of Christ's ascension. The celebration of Epiphany came next, combining both Christ's birth and baptism. During this time Christianity was declared the official religion of the Roman world, and all citizens automatically became Christians. The specific celebration days for Christmas, Good Friday, and Ascension Day were then added, and by the end of the fourth century the basic pattern we observe today was established.
As the additional celebrations were added through the years, the richness of the seasons grew. Now we have a cycle, giving us opportunity to see the beginning with the end and to focus on the influence of Christ's life on our own.
TRADITIONS AND CELEBRATIONS
Traditions are very much a part of the lives of children. They even develop traditions about where to walk and what to step on or not step on! How many children have you seen concentrate on either stepping on or avoiding the cracks in the sidewalk? I recall, as a child, always beginning a flight of stairs with my left foot because I felt that my left foot got neglected since I was right- handed.
Traditions can be both good and bad. They offer us stability in life. When there is a crisis, we often turn to a tradition for comfort, tying us to the life that we feel is stable. However, the tradition becomes unimportant after the crisis, if there is no connection to our everyday lives. If traditions get in the way of seeing life from our present perspective, then we need to take another look at them. Simply because something was done in a particular way at one time does not mean it should be done that way forever.
It is important that we have ownership in our traditions. We cannot appreciate a tradition that is forced upon us with no understanding of its meaning or no connection to our life. The advent of the contemporary service of worship illustrates this point. Over the years the Christian church developed rituals in worship that had meaning to those who planned and led in worship. But when church attendance became optional rather than expected, many younger members opted out because they were not taught the connection between the rituals and their own lives. As these folks realized a need for God in their lives, the contemporary service came into being, and with it new traditions were born, such as standing each time we sing and lifting our hands in prayer. The Christian year is rich in traditions. These traditions bring certain things about the life of Christ or the mission of the church to mind. The cycle of the Christian year also brings stability to our year if we keep it connected with the core of our lives.
CYCLE OF SEASONS
This drawing is a graphic way to help us recognize the movement from one season to another. Some Christian churches celebrate different dates for specific events because of differing calendars in the past and different ways of calculating the days. Some churches also emphasize one season more than another if it has meaning to that particular church.
By reliving the faith story each year, we reestablish its relevance to us, bringing a new understanding and influence on our lives. The seasons and the faith story will have new and different meanings for us next year, and the next, and the next as we grow and our lives change.
Recall the time when Jesus read in the synagogue (Luke 4:16-17) from a specific scroll that was given to him. Our practice of readings from a lectionary stems from the Hebrew custom of reading designated passages from the law and the prophets at specific times. Although use of the lectionary is optional, a larger number of churches follow it for a portion of the year as a means of moving through the cycle of the Christian year and covering most of the Bible.
The lectionary is an arrangement of scripture readings that are specific to certain Sundays and holy days. It moves us through the major parts of the Bible in a three-year plan (Years A, B, C). Each Sunday, readings are suggested from the Gospels, Epistles (letters), Old Testament, and Psalms. Seldom are all four passages read, but most churches using the lectionary will usually include at least two. The reading from the Psalms will often be in the form of a responsive reading.
THE WORK OF THE PEOPLE
There is a Greek word, legitourgia (which is made up of two words, laos, "people," and ergon, "work"), that forms the base for our word liturgy. It is a pattern for worship that is "the work of the people." Understanding this makes a difference in how we understand worship. It has been suggested that worship is not a spectator sport! Yet, at times, such emphasis is placed on "performance" that those leading worship feel that they are "on stage" to be viewed and approved of by the congregation.
In reality, quite the opposite is true if we recognize liturgy as the work of the people. Worship might be compared to a drama where the people are the actors, the worship leaders are the coaches, and God is the audience. The leaders are moving us, the congregation, to a true encounter with God. The liturgy should enable us to experience the Holy Spirit as alive and within us.
It is important, however, to recognize that every person does not grow spiritually in the same way. The liturgy that moves us to grow spiritually will depend greatly on our personalities. For instance, if you are a visual person your spiritual experience in worship may be hampered if there are no symbols or other visuals for you to focus on. These visuals do not necessarily need to be high tech in nature. In fact, sometimes this style of visual is distracting because it is often accompanied by audio. On the other hand, if you are someone needing audio input, the silence of some worship services may leave you completely cold. You, in fact, may be looking for opportunity to experience worship through music or other audio expressions.
As we move through the seasons, we need to recognize that each person comes to worship individually. As such, each will also interpret the seasons in a different manner.CHAPTER 2
In the first story of creation in Genesis the writer speaks of God resting on the seventh day. The early Hebrew people patterned their lives in this fashion, working six days and resting on the seventh. Even during the early church, the followers of Jesus worshiped in the synagogues on the seventh day of the week. Because the Resurrection occurred on the first day of the week, they also celebrated each first day. As it became obvious that the Hebrew faith would not embrace Christ's followers, the celebration of the first day of the week became more prominent and the seventh-day celebration was dropped. These became "Mini-Easters," a time of remembering how our Lord conquered death.
It is significant that on the first day of creation God created light. The people of Rome dubbed the first day of the week dies solis, or "day of the sun," and soon Christians adopted the name and compared the rising of the sun to Christ's rising from the dead. The first day was declared as a day without work when Constantine, the emperor of Rome, became a Christian in the fourth century.
Finally, communion and baptism are most often celebrated on Sunday. The early Christians remembered the last supper that Jesus had with his disciples and used it as a connection with their resurrected Lord each time they met. Early Christianity required extensive study for those formally joining the faith, and the celebration of their uniting was also observed on Sunday. More detailed materials on communion are presented in chapter 6. More details on baptism can be found in chapter 5.
Sunday is the day that we set aside each week to worship God. In the Bible we read that after the creation God rested on the seventh day. The Hebrew people chose the seventh day as their day to rest and worship God. After Christ's resurrection on the first day of the week, Christians also celebrated that day as a "Mini-Easter," as a way of remembering him. Later they dropped the seventh-day celebration and simply concentrated on the first day. It is also interesting to remember that God created light on the first day of the week, and our Sunday worship helps us remember that Christ brought light, or new hope, to people who felt hopeless.
SYMBOLS AND COLORS
Colors: The color for each Sunday depends on the particular season in which it falls. However, if communion is not served each Sunday, then white is usually used on those Sundays when communion is served. White is also used for weddings and occasionally for baptisms. White signifies purity.
Symbols: You will find many symbols in your sanctuary or place of worship. Take children on a tour and explain those listed below and any others you find. Be sure to look at the architecture as well as the obvious and seasonal symbols that may be present. Is the room shaped like a cross? Look for arches and domes. Look for triangles, circles, and squares built into the architecture.
Create Musical Instruments
Rhythm Sticks—Use one-half- to one-inch dowels, cut in nine- to twelve-inch lengths. The sticks may be decorated with colored markers or paints. A coat of varnish will keep them bright. Use the sticks as instruments by hitting them together and/or on the floor.
Humming Comb—Cover a comb with wax paper. Hum into the teeth of the comb.
Drums—You may use various articles for drums, such as a round oatmeal box, a large commercial size can, the bottom of a large plastic jug, or unused paint cans or clay flower pots of graduating sizes. Bottles or glasses filled with different amounts of water create different tones when tapped lightly.
Shakers—Place small stones, buttons, or acorns between two aluminum pie tins or hard plastic cups. Tape the tins or cups together to make shakers. The items could also be placed in a box or covered can. Dried seed pods that rattle may also be used.
Wrist or Ankle Bells—Attach jingle bells to a band of one-inch elastic that will fit around a child's wrist or ankle. The bells may be sewn on or pinned to the elastic with large safety pins.
Sandblocks—Using two blocks of wood, about 2 × 4 × 4 inches, cut two pieces of coarse sandpaper about an inch larger and place them on one side of the blocks, folding the ends over the edge and tacking or stapling them securely. These are rubbed together to make a swishing sound. Nail Triangles—Tie a short string to a large nail. Use another nail to strike the nail that is held with the string. This will produce a sound like the triangle.
Create a Choral Reading
This can be done using psalms or hymns. A choral reading is usually done antiphonally (first one group or individual and then another). Select phrases that lend heavier or darker feelings to be spoken by the deeper voices or the group as a whole, and use lighter phrases for individuals with higher voices. This is a tool for learning, not a performance. You may use the exact words from the Bible or paraphrase them, such as this one based on Psalm 100.
Learn Heritage Prayers and Creeds
There are many prayers and creeds from our heritage that we use in Sunday worship. Even when children do not yet understand exactly the concepts or words, it is important for them to learn to use them with the congregation. You might create a tape of your worship service with these prayers and creeds so that the children can learn to read with the congregation. Duplicate the tape for families to use in the car or at home.
Create a Time Line
Use the information at the beginning of this chapter to create a time line for the celebration of our Sundays.
Create A Banner
Use symbols of light to create a banner of the Lord's Day. The symbols may include candles, lamps, and sunrises. Get permission to display these in your place of worship for the whole congregation to enjoy.
Make a Stained Glass Window
Remind the students that stained glass windows were first used when most people could not read. The windows reminded the worshipers of the stories and symbols of the faith. To make your own stained glass window, you will need:
White paper (typing weight)
Black construction paper
Pencils, crayons, and scissors
Black permanent marker
Plastic sheets and paper towels
Cut frames from the black construction paper, cutting out the space where the picture will show through. Place the frame over the paper and draw an outline of the opening where the picture will go.
Inside the open area, draw symbols or a picture outline with a pencil and trace over it with black permanent marker to represent the "leaded" part of the stained glass. Using crayons, color all parts inside the open area, including the background.
Use the plastic to protect the working surface; dip the cotton swabs in cooking oil and coat the back of the paper on the colored area. Be careful not to use the oil outside the colored area where the frame will be glued. Wipe away any excess oil with paper towels. Glue the frame around the picture.
Do a Crossword Puzzle
See the reproducible sheet on page 10 for a crossword puzzle on "Those Who Help Us Worship." The answers are found on page 114.
Use Visual Imagery on a Celebration Table
Candle, lamp, or lantern to symbolize light (John 8:12)
Candle with a half-bushel basket placed beside it. (Matthew 5:15)
Create and Use a Litany
Use the reproducible on page 11 to create a litany for use in worship.
Use hymns such as those listed below to remind the children that we celebrate
Christ on the Lord's Day:
"Christ Is the World's Light"
"Come, Christians, Join to Sing"
"Morning Has Broken"
"Rise, Shine, You People"
"Shalom to You"
"This Is the Day"
"When Morning Gilds the Skies"
THOSE WHO HELP US WORSHIP
1. The person who preaches
2. The person who plays the organ
3. The person who leads us in our liturgy
4. People who take care of the altar area
5. Those who greet us at the door
6. The person who directs the music
9. Those who lead in worship by singing specials
7. The person who helps us find a seat
8. The band that plays songs of praise
9. The person who prepares communion
10. The team that leads us in songs of praise
11. Those who light candles and assist
12. The person who plays the piano
13. All of us who worship
Excerpted from Children's Activities for the Christian Year by Delia Halverson. Copyright © 2004 Abingdon Press. Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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