Worship for Kids: January 3, 2016

December 1st, 2015

From a Child's Point of View

Gospel: John 1:1-18. Though "the Word," "the light," and "the life" in this poem are too abstract for children, the poem has the answer to questions they often ask: "What is the difference between God and Jesus?" and "How are God and Jesus related?" Jon's answer is that God and Jesus are one. Jesus was part of God when the world was created. God became a person in Jesus of Nazareth. No one has seen God, but anyone who has seen or read about Jesus has seen or read about God, and therefore knows all there is to know about God.

If you explore "the Word" (Logos), introduce it to children as a code word for God. Though this oversimplifies the term, it allows older children to hear John's message—that God and Jesus are one throughout history, even before Creation.

Children also can appreciate that God's presence with us as a person, Jesus, is the most important of the many ways God has loved us and care for us. John mentions God's gift to Moses of the Law (the Ten Commandments). Other texts for the day mention God's other gifts in creation and in the history of Israel.

Epistle: Ephesians 1:3-14. Paul begins his letter to the Ephesians by listing God's gifts to us. Paul's list is filled with abstract theological terms that mean nothing to children as they are read. In children's terms, these are the gifts:

• God chose us before the creation of the world. To children, this says that God's love for us is to big that it stretches back before the creation of the world. Such love gives children both security and a sense of identity a members of God's people.

• God give us forgiveness.

• God promises that one day God will bring the whole world together in peace.

These gifts will need to be named and illustrated with everyday examples in the sermon.

Old Testament:Jeremiah 31:7-14 or Sirach 24:1-12. Jeremiah 31:7

Sirach 24:1-12 celebrates the fact that Wisdom (Old Testament precursor to "the Word" in John's prologue) is in residence in the Jewish nation for all time. Because there is no way to explain Wisdom/Word that does not make it seem to children like a fourth person of the Trinity, either select Jeremiah's text or present Wisdom as another code word for God (like Word) and read this passage as a celebration of God's presence with people of faith.

Psalm 147:12 Both these poems hit several examples of God's loving activities in our behalf. Because the psalm identifies familiar natural gifts as the gifts of God, while the Wisdom poem refers to historical deeds which few children will recognize as gifts of Wisdom, the psalm is the better choice for children. If the weather is wintry, children will especially enjoy the references to God's winter gifts of snow and frost and ice (sleet or hail).

Watch Words

Be careful about "God" vocabulary, especially Trinitarian language. God is called Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God is also called Creator, Redeemer (Rescuer), Friend, and much more. It is easier for children to understand Word or Wisdom when they are presented as part of the second list, than if they are related to the Trinitarian list.

Either avoid incarnation or make it the word of the day, defining it and using it frequently to build familiarity.

Let the Children Sing

To praise Christ, sing either "Rejoice, Ye Pure in Heart," with its repeated chorus, or "When Morning Gilds the Skies," with its repeated phrase, "May Jesus Christ be praised!"

The easiest incarnation hymn for children is "That Boy-child of Mary," which uses simple vocabulary.

The link between the creator God and Jesus in today's text makes it a perfect time to sing the familiar "Fairest Lord Jesus." "All Things Bright and Beautiful" is another good hymn to God the creator.

The Liturgical Child

1. Read John's prologue during the lighting of the Advent wreath candles and Christ candle. An acolyte stands at the center of the sanctuary with a candle, or the candle lighter, raised high while verses 1-5 are read, lights the four candles of the wreath during verses 6-13, and finally lights the Christ candle as verse 14 is read. The acolyte and reader (perhaps a parent/older child team) need to practice a time or two to get the timing right.

2. Before reading the Jeremiah passage, explain the situation of the people for whom it was originally written. Invite listeners to imagine they are living among the captives in Babylon; urge them to imagine how the captives felt when tye heard these words.

3. In a bidding prayer, name the many gifts God gives us: family; people who are our heroes, heroines, and guides; special friends; congregational life; the natural order, particularly the pleasures of winter weather; events in the world in which you sense God at work; and most especially, Jesus. Pause after describing each general gift to allow worshipers to pray about specific gifts they recognize in their own experience.

Sermon Resources

1. Preach about God's gifts to us: God created a beautiful world for us to enjoy, explore, and care for. (Focus in the joys of winter weather.) God has given us directions for happy living—for example, the Ten Commandments. God has come to help us when we get into trouble. God's best gift is coming to live among us and to save us, gift-wrapped in the person of Jesus of Nazareth.

The title of the sermon might be "Whad Ya Get from God?" Open with the question children frequently ask as they meet friends—especially on the first day of school after Christmas—"Whad ya get?" Tell about one gift you were given, then move on to what God gives all of us every day.

2. To help children understand John 1:10-13, point out examples from the Christmas stories of people who did not know who Jesus was. For example, the innkeepers of Bethlehem did not know it was Jesus who would be born when they sent Mary and Joseph away. The shepherds, on, the other hand, listened to the angels and knew who Baby Jesus was.

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