Children’s Worship: 4 Advent (C)

Wait and give thanks: Celebrate the promise

December 23, 2012

Revised Common Lectionary readings:
Micah 5:2-5a; Canticle 3 or 15; Hebrews 10:5-10; Luke 1:39-45, (46-55)

“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.” (Luke 1:46-48)

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 plan of God’s rescue for the world revealed to Mary may sound a little outrageous.

It should. It is. It starts with an unmarried, pregnant girl. And includes an oppressive government. A journey far from home. A cast of peculiar outsiders. Danger. Surprise. And the unlikely promise that a baby will make all the difference in the world.

If it all feels a little desperate, maybe that’s the point. To pull this off, the Lord of all time and space must really want to be here with us. Not once we get ourselves straightened out. Not when we get our lives together. But now. And just as we are. God with us. God for us. God willing to make do with whatever conditions happen to exist.

And once we experience this promise, our hearts can’t help but pour out thanks. Thanks for the outrageous good surprise. Thanks for offering a rescue when we needed it, instead of when we deserved it. Thanks for letting lowly folks participate in something so magnificent. Thanks, thanks, thanks.

This week you will help the children recall the feelings of a good surprise and of thanksgiving. Waiting has been hard, but when we see what God is up to, we can’t help but bubble over with gratitude. Imagine, the perfect gift for every last one of us!

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 last week of the special season called Advent. Do you remember what Advent helps us get ready for? Yes, Christmas. And it’s been full of waiting. But the waiting is almost over.

Today I’d like you to imagine a really good surprise. Not the scary kind. But the good kind. The kind that you can’t help but feel thankful for. Can you show us how that feels?

[Allow time for them to respond. Take your time.]

And can we all say this together? [with as much expression possible] “WOW!”

[Practice gesturing to the children and the congregation and having them repeat “Wow!”]

Remember that feeling. Wow! What a great surprise! Can we all say that together?

LEADER and CHILDREN and CONGREGATION: Wow! What a great surprise!

LEADER: [to children] In our last week, this is a holy Advent feeling. It’s the feeling Mary must have had when the Angel said, “You’re going to have a baby who will change the world!”

[Gesture for children and congregation to respond: “Wow! What a great surprise!”]

Because that isn’t really what we’d expect, right? If someone is going to change the world, this person should be powerful, right? And rich! And smart! And lead the government, right? And boss people around? And not put up with rule breakers, right?

And instead, the angel tells Mary that the great promise to change the world – is a baby. Small and weak and poor. Because God is on the side of the small and weak and poor.

[Gesture for children and congregation to respond: “Wow! What a great surprise!”]

And when the baby Jesus grows up, he won’t command armies and punish bad people. He will heal and hope and love beyond anything we’ve ever seen before. Even people who don’t deserve it. Even the small and weak and poor. Even people like us!

[Gesture for children and congregation to respond: “Wow! What a great surprise!”]

When Mary understood all this, the Bible says she just couldn’t help but say thanks! “Wow” and “thanks” go together a lot with God.

So, in our last two days of waiting, I wonder if we can celebrate Advent with a prayer kind of like hers. We’ll all do it together – along with the big kids. I will say a line, then you say: “Wow! And thanks!” Let’s practice. With the kind of excited expression that you get after waiting a long, long time: “Wow! And thanks!”

You never gave up on us, God!

[Gesture for children and congregation to respond: “Wow! And thanks!”]

You sent us prophets and miracles and beauty!

[Gesture for children and congregation to respond: “Wow! And thanks!”]

And you promised a loving savior!

[Gesture for children and congregation to respond: “Wow! And thanks!”]

Because you are with us and for us!

[Gesture for children and congregation to respond: “Wow! And thanks!”]

Every small, weak, poor, last one of us!

[Gesture for children and congregation to respond: “Wow! And thanks!”]

And we can’t help but praise your name and shout:

[Gesture for children and congregation to respond: “Wow! And thanks!”]

Amen.

 

— 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.

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.

Children’s Worship: 2 Advent (C)

Wait and get ready: Make things right for all people

December 9, 2012

Revised Common Lectionary readings:
Malachi 3:1-4; Canticle 4 or 16; Philippians 1:3-11; Luke 3:1-6

“See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me.” (Malachi 3:1)

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.

Advent is active. It carves off mountains and fills up valleys. It straightens things out. And makes them smooth. In the Kingdom of God kind of way. Where justice matters. And mercy provides the means. And not with a dreamy someday wistfulness. But right now. Right here. Right up to our ankles in dirt. Together. Ready?

This week you will help the children recall the feeling of getting ready for a wonderful party. With something good for everyone. Especially those who don’t usually get good things. Or get invited to parties. During Advent, our waiting isn’t just sitting still. Or dreading an overwhelming task. It’s preparing for the wonderful Kingdom of God! Partnered with God! We are getting ready for news that is good for every last one!

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 second 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 remember their response from last week: “Waiting is hard!”]

Yes, waiting is hard. But I want to try to different kinds of waiting with you. To help us think about the Advent kind of waiting.

First, use your imaginations. Pretend with me. Show me what waiting feels like if you’re waiting to clean your room [pause] because you’d rather be playing outside.

[Add the following sentences, or something similar, one at a time. Slowly. Allowing them to react to each. Showing fully their dread.]

And it’s really messy. [pause] With an entire box of crayons spilled across the floor. [pause] And a bowl of ice cream that tipped over. [pause] Just before you walked through it. [pause] Onto your dirty underwear. Ugh!

Can you show me that kind of waiting?

Ugh. That kind of waiting does look hard.

But now, show me a different kind of waiting. Show me what waiting feels like if you’re about to have a big party. For all kinds of people. The biggest party ever. And you’re helping. You’re getting things ready before everyone arrives. Oh, let’s do it now! I can’t wait! Hooray!

Isn’t it exciting thinking about what will happen? Isn’t it fun to make things good for all the guests?

Yes! Because that’s what Advent waiting feels like, too. We don’t just wait and mope. We wait and get ready. We make things right for all people. We prepare the way of the Lord who invites everyone! And it should feel like preparing for the biggest party of all!

In Advent, something wonderful is coming. And we must get ready. Will you remind the big kids how to do this?

[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.]

CHILDREN: [to congregation]

Waiting IS hard!
But we need to get ready!
God’s promise is coming.
Make things right for all people!
Not later.
Now, please.

— 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.

Children’s Worship: 1 Advent (C)

Wait and trust: Remember God keeps promises

December 2, 2012

Revised Common Lectionary readings :
Jeremiah 33:14-16; Psalm 25:1-9; 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13; Luke 21:25-36

“The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made.” (Jeremiah 33:14)

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.

Imagine that. Being led by a child. What in the world might happen next?

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?

I want you to help me imagine something. Pretend with your whole bodies. So the big kids can see it and remember it, too.

What does it feel like when someone promises you something WONDERFUL [pause] and then tells you that you have to wait for it? How does it feel to wait? Show me.

[Take a moment for the children to imagine and show the feeling in their expressions and reactions. Don’t rush through this work or make light of it. Demonstrate that you take each response seriously.]

LEADER: [to congregation] Would you all join me in naming this? “Waiting is hard.” In fact, when I point to you, would you say this line? “Waiting is hard!” I know you can remember it, because waiting is hard for you, too.

[Invite the congregation to respond, “Waiting is hard!” when you point. Practice it with them. You could emphasize a different word each time, for instance: “WAITING is hard!” “Waiting IS hard!” “Waiting is HARD!” Let the children recognize that adults feel this, too.]

LEADER: [to children] So why all this talk and feeling about waiting? Because today we start a special season on the church’s calendar. It’s called Advent. And it teaches us how to get ready for Christmas.

One of the things that Advent teaches us is that we have to wait. Christmas is such a big truth that we can’t just jump there immediately. We have to wait. And get ready. And long for it. Do you remember that feeling?

Something special has been promised. A savior. Someone who will change everything. But the promise isn’t here yet. So waiting is a holy feeling for Advent. Thanks for reminding us how it feels.

Let’s let the big kids remind us, too.

[Leader points to the congregation.]

CONGREGATION: Waiting is hard!

LEADER: [to children] They’re right, aren’t they? But here’s something that may make the waiting a little easier. What if you trust the one who made the promise?

Let’s think about that feeling of trust. You can even picture someone you trust in your head. Someone who always takes care of you. No matter what. Now, show me with your bodies how that feels.

[Allow time for the children to embody and show this feeling.]

Because that’s a holy Advent feeling, too. Trusting.

If this person made you a promise, would it be a little easier to wait? Because you’d know it’s going to happen. No question. For sure. A really good thing will happen.

Advent feels like waiting. And Advent feels like trusting, too. Because God has promised something wonderful. A savior is on the way. And our scripture reminds us that God can be trusted. God keeps promises.

Let’s take a moment and look at the big kids in front of us. I know lots of them have their own stories about God taking good care of them.

LEADER: [to congregation] Big kids, would you raise your hand if God has kept a promise to you? [Pause while hands go up.] It helps to remember those times, doesn’t it?

[Give both the congregation and the children a moment to soak the response in.]

LEADER: [to children] Waiting IS hard. But God can be trusted. Remember that. Would you help everyone remember this Advent wisdom?

[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.]

CHILDREN: [to congregation]

Waiting IS hard!
But God can be trusted!
Remember that!

 

 

— 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.