- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT
From a Child's Point of View
Old Testament: Isaiah 2:1-5. On television and in newspaper photographs, children see the gruesome results and reality of wars and struggles between ethnic groups. Though children cannot cite names and details of the conflicts, they often feel deeply for the victims in the pictures and may fear such experiences for themselves. In their own community, they may observe or even participate in ethnic conflict. At the very least, they hear racial/ethnic jokes and slurs. All this makes welcome news of Isaiah's promise that one day all nations and groups will live together peacefully.
Because children think concretely until about the age of twelve, they take Isaiah's word picture in verse 2 literally, and thus see little Mount Zion magically rise until it towers over the Himalayas. So either explain Isaiah's coded message or focus attention on the verses that follow.
Psalm: 122. A pilgrim song praising Jerusalem as the spiritual/political capital of "my people" is hard for non-Jewish Christians of any age to join in singing today. Symbolic thinkers can equate Jerusalem with the heart, or center, of God's people, wherever they may be. But children do not think symbolically, so this psalm seems strange.
Gospel: Matthew 24:36-44. Apocalyptic passages are generally difficult for children to interpret. This one, however, offers a clear, easy-to-understand warning ("Watch out, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come!"), with a familiar example of what happens when a warning is ignored (those who died in "Noah's flood").
Although the aim in the cited examples (those killed in the flood and the victim of the thief) is to avoid judgment or danger, remember that our watchfulness also enables us to be ready for good things (God's coming).
Epistle: Romans 13:11-14. Although the apocalyptic language in this passage is all but impossible for children to interpret, the message makes quick sense to children when it is linked to the Gospel lesson for the day: Because we know that God is coming among us, we should follow God's teachings. Choose your translation carefully, paying special attention to the list of sinful activities to be avoided. The Good News Bible is especially clear.
"Drunkenness" and "indecency" are no longer strictly adult sins. Fifth- and sixth-graders are especially vulnerable. Many drug and alcohol abusers tell about first experiences at the age of eleven or twelve. General "immorality" needs to be made specific by reference to the Ten Commandments. "Fighting" and "jealousy" are chronic at all ages; examples from family and neighborhood life abound.
Plowshares, pruning hooks, and sickles are not familiar tools today. You will need to describe them before children can understand Isaiah's prophecy.
Tell the children that Son of man in Matthew is simply another name for Jesus.
Avoid words such as debauchery, licentiousness, and reveling. Instead, talk about drug and alcohol abuse, fighting, greed, jealousy, and breaking rules to get your own way.
Let the Children Sing
"O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" is an Advent hymn with abstract language unfamiliar to children, but with music that offers sad verses, followed by a happy promise in the chorus. The verse that begins "O come, Desire of nations bind all peoples" is a prayer for world peace. Point this out before the congregation sings the hymn. Paraphrase the prayer in the verse and the promise in the chorus in simple, concrete words. Encourage children to sing that verse, even if they cannot sing the others.
With urging, even nonreading children can join in on the repeated opening lines of the verses in "Christ for the World We Sing." Much of the poetic language of the rest of the hymn is hard for children to read and interpret.
Older children can follow the music and message of "In Christ There Is No East or West," especially if it is sung frequently in your congregation.
The Liturgical Child
1. To emphasize God's presence with us both in worship and in our daily life, sing, or have a choir or older children's class, sing "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence" both before the call to worship and before the benediction.
Call to Worship: God comes to be with us when we worship. Let us sing, and listen, and pray in God's presence.
Charge and Benediction: God is coming into our world. Pay attention! Be ready! Live as God's people! And God's peace will be with you, and it will spread out until it includes the whole world! Amen.
2. Many children learn "Dona Nobis Pacem," a prayer for peace, at church school or camp. To use it in worship today:
Invite a children's class or choir to sing the round as the first candle of the Advent wreath is lighted. Introduce the candle as the candle of God's promised peace.
Invite the congregation to sing the basic melody as a response to each of a series of short prayers for peace in our families, our community, and the world.
Note: The candles of the Advent wreath do not have any set meanings; this opens up the possibility of linking them to the texts of the day. This year's texts suggest a series of God's promises, beginning with God's peace.
3. After reading the implications of Paul's instructions in Romans 13:11-14, reread it as the Charge, reminding the worshipers that Paul was speaking to each of us.
1. Create modern paraphrases of Isaiah's weapons-to-tools prophecy. For example, tanks could be turned into tractors, and aircraft carriers could be refitted as floating sport camps or cruise ships. What are the possibilities for missiles, machine guns, hand grenades and so forth? (The Worship Worksheet challenges children to draw these conversions.)
2. To explore the importance of watching and being ready, tell stories:
Tell three parallel stories about what children, youths, and adults did the day before the flood; the day Jesus was born in Bethlehem; and a "normal" day today. Include in each story examples of people who are being watchful, as Paul instructed, and others who are not.
Tell a story about a child who stayed at a friend's house long past time to return home and missed sharing a treat brought by a neighbor. (This story sets up a situation in which we are urged to do right—not to avoid punishment, but to avoid missing out on something desirable. Paul was not as concerned that the Romans would be punished if not prepared as that they would miss out on sharing in the joy of God's presence and peace.)
Describe preparations for the visit of a much-loved out-of-town relative. Mention house cleaning, planning meals and activities that person would enjoy, thinking of things you want to share with them and ask them. Then talk about preparing for God's presence. Describe "cleaning" the jealousy and quarreling out of our families and "cleaning" racial jokes and names out of our mouths, because God has promised to bring peace to all the people of the world. Explore some of Paul's other instructions in a similar way.
Listen carefully when Isaiah 2:1-5 is read.
Isaiah promised that one day God will bring peace for the whole world.
People will be able to bend their for farming.
SECOND SUNDAY OF ADVENT
From a Child's Point of View
Old Testament: Isaiah 11:1-10. Because they are so dependent on their leaders, children are very appreciative of those who are fair. A teacher who grades fairly, a coach who gives everyone a chance, or a Scout leader who does not play favorites is highly valued. Having had experience with leaders who are less than fair, children appreciate the fair ones and claim God's promise of a totally fair leader.
A sprout growing out of a stump is not common enough in nature to assume that children (or urban adults) will be familiar with the phenomenon. It will need to be scientifically explained before children will understand Isaiah's message. Older children, once they understand the Jesse tree, often find great hope in it for all the seemingly hopeless situations in their lives and world.
Psalm: 72:1-7, 18-19. This psalm praises two leaders: Solomon (and his son); and God's messiah. Children begin to understand the psalm when they hear it as a public prayer for King Solomon, and they can add their prayers for their own leaders. Then they are primed to think about God's promised leader, who is more fair than even the most just human leaders.
Epistle: Romans 15:4-13. One example of God's justice is that God kept the promise that Jesus would come to the Jewish people. (Keeping promises is part of God's justice.) But Jesus kept the promise for everyone else. God's justice is for everyone, so God wants us to work on getting along with all people. For Paul, that meant spending his life introducing the Christian faith to non-Jews and trying to help Jews and Gentiles get along. For children today, it means treating everyone—people of other ethnic, economic, or neighborhood groups; and even people they do not like—with love and respect.
Because this is a complex passage, few children will make any sense of the text as it is read. Plan to present its message to children through the sermon.
Gospel: Matthew 3:1-12. Children are fascinated by the colorful aspects of John the Baptist. They need to hear that John wore animal skins and ate locusts (grasshoppers) and honey because they were easy to find. John was too busy telling people about God's justice to spend time cooking or finding neat clothes. Compare his dedication to that of athletes preparing for the Olympics, or a person who is so busy making a gift for a friend that she forgets to eat.
John's poetic images (Abraham's children, axes laid to trees, sandals to be carried, winnowing forks, chaff burning in unquenchable fires) are too much to explain in one worship service. So simply present John's message in words children understand—that God does not care whether your families are rich or poor, whether your brothers and sisters are smart and attractive or embarrassing, whether your friends are the "in" group or "nerds," or which church you go to. God cares about what you do. God expects you to live by God's rules or to repent (change your ways).
Children use fairness instead of justice. Fairness is often applied to everyday situations, while justice seems removed from everyday concerns. Use the terms interchangeably and often, to help children recognize their connection.
Define repent if you use it. John does not want us to be sorry for the unjust things we do. He wants us to stop treating people "unfairly" or "unjustly."
Avoid Gentile. Speak instead of God's justice, which includes all people. Name specific, familiar groups that are treated today as Gentiles were treated in Paul's day.
Let the Children Sing
"Hail to the Lord's Anointed" is based on Psalm 72. Older children can match the verses in the psalm with those in the hymn, but the vocabulary of the hymn is challenging, even for twelve-year-olds.
"Lord, I Want to Be a Christian" is the easiest hymn with which children can sing their repentance.
The Liturgical Child
1. In the worship center, display a Jesse tree. Ask a creative person to make an arrangement in which an evergreen branch is drilled into a small stump, or a pot covered with burlap to look like a stump. Or wrap a sand-filled bucket with brown craft paper to look like a stump, and "plant" a small tree or evergreen branch in the bucket.
2. While lighting the candle of God's promised justice as the second candle of the Advent wreath, read Isaiah's prophecy, or some statement such as this:
We all want to be treated fairly. God has promised that one day we will be. Last week we lighted the first candle of Advent, for God's promised peace. Today we light the second candle, for God's promised justice. We light it for all the little kids who are picked on, for those whose poverty means they never get a fair chance at anything, and for those who live in countries ruled by unfair people and laws. God promises that day there will be justice for us all.
3. Invite the congregation to read Psalm 72 as if they were in a crowd, shouting to a king they hope will be a just leader. Divide the congregation in half and ask the people to read the verses alternately, loudly and enthusiastically.
4. If you pray for just leaders, include children's leaders—teachers, coaches, and club leaders.
5. Create a litany prayer of petitions, to each of which the congregational response is, "Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven."
1. Explore Old Testament stories about our longing for, and failure to attain, justice. As each story is told, add a poster board ornament to your Jesse tree (Or ask a child to add the ornament). Consider the following ornaments/stories:
Adam and Eve begin the human failure to live by God's rules (an apple with a bite out of it).
Through Moses, God gave us a clear set of rules for just living. But God's people immediately and repeatedly proved that knowing the rules does not give us the power to create a just world (Ten Commandment tablets).
David and Solomon tried to build a just nation. Though they did well, neither was perfectly just, and the kings who ruled after them were often miserable failures. No human can establish God's justice (star of David, or crown).
Knowing that we could neither follow just rules nor build a just world on our own, God promised to establish the justice. God would send a Messiah. Describe how Jesus inaugurated this justice in his ministry, death, and resurrection (cross and crown).
2. Invite children and other worshipers to create new pairings of animals who will get along. Such pairings lead to joining usually uncooperative human groups.
3. Paraphrase Paul's encouragement to Jews and Gentiles to get along. Address it to different groups that do not treat one another well today. Consider including older and younger brothers and sisters, rival school groups, even "the boys" and "the girls." Such a paraphrase might be repeated as the Charge and Benediction.
4. Open a sermon on justice with the cry, "But it's not fair!" followed by examples ranging from a child whose friends are going to a movie while she must visit a sick aunt with her family, to a poor athlete who tries hard but never gets the good results of a gifted athlete who hardly seems to try at all, to people who live under oppressive governments and social systems.
In the box below, draw a picture of something that is not fair.
Draw the picture again in this box, so that it is fair.
THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT
From a Child's Point of View
Old Testament: Isaiah 35:1-10. This poetic prophecy makes most sense to children when set in its historic context. They need to know that the people who first heard this had been led in chains across a hot, dry desert, to live as conquered people in a foreign land. Isaiah is telling them that God will one day rescue them and lead them home. The poem is the answer to their request, "Tell us what it will be like when God rescues us." The answer is that even the weak and those with handicaps will walk, singing and dancing and in complete safety, across a blooming desert to God's city. Older children can begin to understand that just as God promised to rescue those people, God promises that one day all of us who have handicaps will be healed, the desert will bloom, and we will all live safely and happily together.
Excerpted from Forbid Them Not Involving Children in Sunday Worship by Carolyn C. Brown. Copyright © 1992 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.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.