Worship for Kids: December 20, 2020

November 5th, 2020

From a Child's Point of View

Today's texts focus on two of God's promises. David is given a promise which is kept when Mary is told about the birth of Jesus. Mary is given a promise that she will be the mother of God's Messiah. That promise is also kept.

Old Testament: 2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16. Children enjoy this story, but cannot follow it as it is read from the Bible. They depend on the preacher to retell it, eliminating the overwhelming details to focus on the key events: David offered to build a house (a temple) for God. God replied that God did not need a house, but would give a dynasty (a different kind of house) to David. Because they like riddles and jokes based on word plays, children enjoy God's humorous word play on "house" when it is pointed out.

Gospel: Luke 1:26-38. The story of the Annunciation may not be familiar to all children. If they are hearing the story for the first time, the conception vocabulary can be a major obstacle to understanding. To bypass this obstacle, simply say that Mary would become pregnant even though she was not yet married. Older children and soap opera-wise children will add the details using their own vocabulary. (The Good News Bible offers the best translation of these terms but may not be the best choice today because it does not use the "house of David" terms which connect this story to the Old Testament reading.)

All children accept the story literally and take it at face value. Questions about the meaning of the doctrine of the Virgin birth are beyond their mental ability.

Luke 1:47-55 or Psalm 89:1-4, 19-26. (The Magnificat is the preferred reading for this Sunday.) The Magnificat is Mary's response to the Annunciation. Psalm 89 is the psalmist's response to God's promise to David. Children need to hear the stories behind these poems before they can make any sense of the poems. Even then, they will respond more to the feelings expressed by the poets than to the content of the poetic images. Therefore, it is important that the readers of the poems express their confident joy.

David, the shepherd boy chosen to be king of a struggling nation which became strong under his leadership, could also have sung the Magnificat. Older children enjoy identifying people today who either long to sing or can sing this song. They also enjoy naming times in their own lives that make them want to sing Mary's song.

Epistle: Romans 16:25-27. This doxology is the least child-accessible of today's texts. No translation makes it meaningful to children. So read this for the adults.

Watch Words

Do not use Annunciation without identifying the story to which it is connected, and do not use Magnificat without explaining its Latin base.

Do not expect children to catch the play on house in 2 Samuel. Explain what kind of house David intended to build for God and what kind of house God promised to David.

Let the Children Sing

"To a Maid Engaged to Joseph" tells the Annunciation story in words older children can read with understanding. Its simple melody is easy to sing the first time.

"My Soul Gives Glory to My God" ("Song of Mary" in some hymnals) by Miriam Therese Winter invites us to sing along with Mary. Older children can read the words. Younger children will follow the first two verses before getting lost in difficult words.

"There's a Song in the Air," "Gentle Mary Laid Her Child," and "What Child Is This?" are carols that focus on Mother and Child in fairly simple, concrete language.

The Liturgical Child

1. Light all four candles of the Advent wreath, saying:

We light the fourth candle of the Advent wreath for the promises God made and kept. Today we especially remember God's promise to David that his family would be rulers forever, and God's promise to Mary that she would have a son who would be a Savior and ruler of the world. As we light this candle, we know that God kept those promises when Jesus was born, lived, taught us, died for us, and rose again. God keeps promises!

2. Introduce the Old Testament and Gospel lessons as stories that belong together. With a few comments about promises made and kept, read the lessons one after the other.

3. Ask a teenage girl to present the Magnificat as a dramatic reading or recitation. She may read at a lectern or stand in costume at the center of the chancel. Practice with her for a strong reading.

4. Children's Christmas excitement is at fever pitch this week. In the church's prayer, remember their excitement about visiting grandparents and cousins, parties, and hoped-for presents. Also pray about selfishness and tired crabbiness that can get in the way this week.

5. Create a litany about the promises God has made and kept. Briefly describe God's promise to Abraham and Sarah, the rainbow promise to Noah, the promise to the slaves in the desert that "I will be your God and you will be my people," and so forth. Begin each description with "God promised . . . " and conclude each with, "And God did." The congregation's response to each promise is, "We can count on God to keep the promises!"

Sermon Resources

1. Knock-knock jokes are one way children celebrate and explore the humorous possibilities in word plays. Tell a knock-knock joke to prepare listeners to catch and enjoy God's play on the word house. For example:

Knock! Knock!
Who's there?
Apple (repeat first three lines several times)

Knock! Knock!
Who's there?
Orange who?
Aren't ya (sounds like "orange") glad I didn't say "apple" again?

2. Talk about our promises. Children are allowed to go out if they promise to be back at a set time. Parents coax hesitant young swimmers to jump into the pool with the promise, "I'll catch you!" Scouts recite and are urged to keep the Scout promise. Children make promises to each other to meet at the park, to write from camp, to keep their secret, and so forth. "But you PROMISED!" is the anguished response when any of these promises is broken. Adults have learned to place different values on different promises and to accept that promises can be broken. For children, a promise is a promise and should be completely dependable. God keeps promises on children's terms.

3. Consider a dialog sermon in which Mary and David (in costume) compare and contrast their experiences with God's promises. Some points to discuss:

--Both were poor nobodies who were chosen by God;
--both were given a promise and a task; and
--both were promised that God would bring blessings through them.

4. As they leave the sanctuary, speak briefly with children about the pictures they drew and the magnificats they wrote using the worship worksheet.

Adapted from Forbid Them Not: Involving Children in Sunday Worship © Abingdon Press

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