Worship for Kids: December 11, 2016

November 1st, 2016

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.

Psalm: Psalm 146:5-10 or Luke 1:47-55. Both these texts are happy lists of things God does. The psalm tells us what kinds of things God is interested in and working on. The activities are concrete and everyday, and children will understand most of them as they are read. Do explain unfamiliar phrases: "execute justice" means to provide justice; all "those who have fallen," "those who are bowed down," and "the bent" are lame; "sojourners" are not just any travelers, but the outsiders who live among us.

The Magnificat is Mary's list of the wonderful things God is doing in Jesus. It is readily understood by children, particularly when read from the Good News Bible. Children accept and appreciate Mary's delight at being chosen by God, but are as disconcerted as their elders by her celebration of the downfall of the "haves." That may make the psalm the better choice today. 

Gospel: Matthew 11:2-11. When John the Baptist wanted to know if Jesus was God's promised leader, Jesus listed what he was doing. His activities matched God's promises. When this answer is read with the Old Testament texts of the day, children quickly see the comparison and realize that Jesus was saying to John, "I am what I do. And I am doing the work of the Messiah."

The details of Jesus' great compliment to John in verses 7-11 make it hard for children to understand. Since children gain little from understanding the compliment, it is not worth the effort to explain the details. Until they are older, it is enough to know that Jesus said that John was the greatest prophet ever.

Epistle: James 5: 7-11. This passage about patience is mainly for adults and those children who have personal, direct need of God's healing and rescue. Most other children do not have sense of urgency that God should keep the promises about healing which makes patience necessary.

Warning against possible misinterpretation: As children grow increasingly impatient for Christmas, this passage, taken out of context of the other readings, can be misunderstood by children as yet another insistence on patience and good behavior. "The Judge who waits at the door" sounds a lot like Santa Claus.

Watch Words

If you use the term Magnificat, explain its source and meaning.

Let the Children Sing

"Come, Thou Long-expected Jesus" describes the activities of Jesus in ways that parallel today's texts, but the language is foreign to children. To help them learn this hymn and to call adult worshipers' attention to its meaning, put one or two verses into familiar words and illustrate their meaning with local examples.

Sing the Canadian Indian version of the Christmas story, " `Twas in the Moon of Wintertime," to highlight the story from the perspective of those who often are unwelcome even in their own land. If the congregation does not respond to new hymns, ask a choir or children's class to share this as an anthem.

The Liturgical Child

1. Light the third candle of the Advent wreath for God's promise of healing and happiness. Read Isaiah 35 , or the following:

We lighted the first candle of the Advent wreath for God's promise of peace. We lighted the second candle for God's promise of justice. Today we light the third candle, for God's promise of healing and happiness. All people everywhere want to be healthy, safe, and happy. As we light it, we remember those who are sick and need God's physical healing; those who are unwelcome where they must live, and work, and go to school; and those for whom life is filled with danger. God has promised that one day, all of us will dance and sing happily together.

2. Invite five readers (perhaps older children or youths) to read Isaiah 35 in topical sections, as if they were Isaiah, announcing God's promises to captured people. Practice with readers for clear, enthuasistic readings.

Reader 1: verses 1-2 (Nature will bloom.)
Reader 2: verses 3-4 (tell the weak and frightened that God is coming.)
Reader 3: verses 5-6a (Those with handicaps will be healed.)
Reader 4: verses 6a-7 (The desert will bloom.)
Reader 5: verses 8-10 (On God's Way—no hurt at all.)
The congregation responds to these promises by reading Psalm 146:5-10 in unison. The New Revised Standard Version offers an inclusive translation in which many lines begin: "The Lord." Young readers will be able to follow along if these lines are printed one below the other, emphasizing the shared first words.

3. Use Psalm 146:7-10 as an outline for prayer. Read each description of what the Lord does, then pray for people in need of that help, and/or the work of the church in that area. For example;

The Lord lifts those who are bowed down.

O Lord, we remember this morning those who cannot walk. We remember those who have suffered diseases and accidents that left them in wheelchairs. We remember the children in war zones whose legs have been blown off by land mines. And we remember those whose bones no longer support them in their old age. Help us find ways to join you in lifting them up. Be with the doctors who seek cures and rehabilitation. Be with those who support the lame in living full lives in spite of handicaps. Be with those who wait patiently for your promise that one day we will all dance together in your kingdom.

One person can lead this prayer; or two people can lead, one reading the lines of the psalm, the other responding with related prayers.

Sermon Resources

1. When John's disciples asked Jesus who he was, he told them to look at what he did. Challenge worshipers of all ages to consider how what they do says who they are. To spur their thinking, describe a day in the life of a household of people of different ages, doing as Jesus did: children befriend the lonely, teens and adults are involved in volunteer work, and all look out for one another. A similar story could be told about a week in the life of your congregation. Stress the possibilities for working with God to make the Advent promises come true.

2. Point out the serpent on a Tau Cross chrismon ornament. Briefly, tell the story of God's healing people bitten by snakes. Compare this symbol to the medical symbol. (Have a poster or plaque with the medical symbol on it. A physician in the congregation may have one to loan.) Explore the church's healing ministry as sharing in God's Advent work.

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