Children’s Worship: 3 Advent (C)

Wait and dream big: Expect really good news

December 16, 2012

Revised Common Lectionary readings:
Zephaniah 3:14-20; Canticle 9; Philippians 4:4-7; Luke 3:7-18

“I will save the lame and gather the outcast, and I will change their shame into praise and renown in all the earth.” (Zephaniah 3:19)

Introduction

In Advent, we are asked to wait. Instead of jumping immediately into Christmas, we spend four weeks pacing along its shore. Longing. Preparing. Waiting. Our tradition says it’s important. Because some truths are so big that we must get ready to receive them.

Of course, waiting is not easy. Far from it. But scripture assures us that waiting is a holy feeling. And scripture gives us some tools for its work. One week at a time. One step at a time.

Your job through this season is to take these shore-line steps with your congregation. To let them experience the holy feeling of waiting. And to let your children lead you all to that really big Christmas truth.

These resources are not simply words designed to be spoken to children. So that they get it. They are also words designed to be spoken to us by children. So that we get it.

The good news headed our way is not measured or reasonable. God’s promised rescue doesn’t offer business-as-usual blessings. Instead, it’s upside down. Over the top. All in. A really great, big dream.

In God’s dream for the world, the lame, the outcast, the homeless, the hurting, the last people in the world are privileged. Worthy. And blessed by the Lord of all heaven and earth. For no other reason than love. Love that is willing to change the rules of business-as-usual. So that all might flourish. That’s really great good news. Are we willing to dream as big as God?

This week you will help the children experience the Advent hope for those who need it most. God’s extravagant plan will feed the hungry, heal the hurting and bring home the outcast. Every last one is a precious child.

Children’s Worship Service

[The leader welcomes the children, focusing on them individually, making them feel as comfortable as possible.]

LEADER: [to congregation] Will you let your children lead you in worship?

[Pause for response.]

LEADER: [to children] Will you help our congregation, the “big kids,” remember the important stuff about Advent?

This is the third week of the special season called Advent. Advent helps us get ready for Christmas. And it’s full of waiting.

Let’s see if the big kids remember how waiting feels.

[Invite the congregation to respond: “Waiting is hard!”]

Yes, waiting is hard. But I know something even harder. And I want you to pretend with me. To help the big kids remember.

[Divide the children into three groups. You can use a youth member to lead or model for each group.]

LEADER: [to first group of children] I’d like you to show us how it feels to be hungry or without a home. You don’t know if your family will have enough to eat this week. Or a safe place to stay.

[Pause to allow them to react and fully show their feelings.]

LEADER: [to second group of children] I’d like you to show us how it feels to be sad. Maybe someone in your family is really sick. Or your body doesn’t feel well. Maybe you can’t walk.

[Pause to allow them to react and fully show their feelings.]

LEADER: [to third group of children] I’d like you to show us how to feels to be left out. Like you don’t belong. Can you show me how it feels to be picked very last?

[Pause. Take your time. And take special care to be sensitive in dealing with their responses. This can be vulnerable work.]

Wow. Those are all hard, aren’t they?

But I want to show you an Advent blessing for each. In Advent, we don’t just wait. We dream big. Like God dreams. And this blessing is God’s dream for these people. All people. For us. How do you think this sounds to each group?

[Gather the first group of children. Make direct eye contact. Hold your arms out to them as you offer this blessing.]

You are God’s precious children.
God does not forget you.
Or give up.
God will welcome you in.
Fill you up.
Heal your hurts.
And bring you home.
God is with you.
Do not be afraid.

[Repeat this blessing to the second group of children, then to the third group of children. Let them get familiar with this blessing. From different perspectives – observers and receivers.]

Children, sometimes the big kids feel those same difficult feelings. Sometimes they have felt hurt, hungry, left out.

LEADER: [to congregation] Big kids, could you nod if you’ve ever felt those things?

[Allow both children and adults a time to soak in this exchange.]

Children, could you help remind them of God’s Advent blessing? So that we can all feel it? So that we can all share it with the world?

[Have the children face the congregation. Hold a microphone out to the children or encourage them to speak loudly so their voices carry. Say each line quietly to them, and ask them to repeat it aloud to the congregation. You may have the children hold out their arms in a blessing gesture.]

CHILDREN: [to congregation]

You are God’s precious children.
God does not forget you.
Or give up.
God will welcome you in.
Fill you up.
Heal your hurts.
And bring you home.
God is with you.
Do not be afraid.

 

— Teresa Stewart has worked with children and youth ministries in a wide variety of contexts for almost 30 years. Her passions include small congregations, deepening children’s participation in worship and training laity to continue this essential work. She lives in Kansas City, Kan., where she writes formation and worship resources for Paper Bag Cathedrals.

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