Worship for Kids: December 2, 2018

November 5th, 2018

From a Child's Point of View

Old Testament: Jeremiah 33:14-16. The child's cry, "But, it's not fair!" reminds us that justice and fairness are big concerns for children. They yearn for teachers, parents, and playmates who are fair. They want just rules for the groups in which they participate and the games they play. They protest vehemently when they sense injustice—especially when it affects them. Therefore Jeremiah's Advent promise—that when God's kingdom comes fully, there will be justice for everyone and a leader who deals with people fairly—is good news for children.

The words of the promise, however, need to be decoded for children. Before the passage is read, Children need to hear that "house of Judah" and "house of Israel" are names for God's people; and that when God made this promise, God's people, being ruled by cruel foreigners, felt as hopeful as an old dead stump. It also helps them to see, or hear described, the possibility of a fresh branch growing from a stump.

Psalm: Psalm 25:1-10. This passage is a personal prayer, asking God that I be treated well by others, that God teach me how to live, and that God not remember all my sins and shortcomings. It is a prayer for people of all ages.

Epistle: 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13. In this loving message to friends in the church at Thessalonica, Paul prays that God will help them love one another and the people beyond their church as much as Paul and God love them. To love others that much is a good Advent challenge for children.

Gospel: Luke 21:25-36. This apocalyptic passage is filled with images that are not easy for children to understand, and an idea (that we should watch and be prepared) that is hard for children to grasp. It is probably best to read the passage for the older worshipers and present the idea for the children during the sermon.

One interpretation of this passage that speaks to children is that some frightening, horrible things happen in human experience, but that God is still in control and will be there for us even after "the worst." Given this, we are called to avoid both (1) worrying too much about the awful things and (2) ignoring the awful things by partying and being self-centered. Instead, we are to remember that God is in control, and we are to live accordingly.

Warning: Do not underestimate the "horrible things" children worry about. At an early age they see television's graphic pictures of war, famine, natural disasters, and the potential for nuclear annihilation. Many see the devastation of divorce in their own families or in those of their friends. More children than we wish have been mugged by older kids and know the fear of participating in the drug culture. Children need to know that God will see them through even these "horfible things." They also need to hear that such things are the products of our imperfect age and that when God's kingdom comes in its fullness, those things will end.

Watch Words

Avoid tribulation, affliction, and other big words that describe suffering. They are obsolete. Instead, use specific, concrete words to describe wars, natural disasters, and personal tragedies.

Be careful about using righteousness. If children have heard the word at all, it has probably been used with a negative connotation, such as self-righteous. Instead, speak about living by God's rules, or take time to explore what righteousness means today.

Children use the word fair before they use justice. Using the words interchangeably will help make the connection between them.

Let the Children Sing

"Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus" is filled with difficult, unfamiliar vocabulary. But when it is sung after a sermon about Jeremiah's promise, older children, when encouraged, can find phrases that identify Jesus as the promised "righteous branch."

The words of "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" are beyond most elementary-school readers. But the sad, "stumpy" feeling of the music of the verses and the happy, hopeful music of the chorus attract them. Invite even young readers to feel the sad sound of the verses, and then sing along on the simple-to-read happy chorus.

"Song of Hope" offers a straightforward message in words that are easy to read and understand. If the Argentine folk melody is unfamiliar, ask a children's choir or class to sing the hymn at the close of the service.

The Liturgical Child

1. For your worship area, ask someone to create a banner picturing a branch growing out of a stump, with the words of Jeremiah. Or replace the usual flowers with a stump from which a branch is growing. (This may be a real stump into which a seedling or leafed branch has been drilled. Or it may be a potted seedling wrapped with brown paper or burlap to look like a stump.) Refer to this display before reading Jeremiah's promise, urging worshipers to listen for the unusual stump in the reading.

2. In the congregation's prayers, pray for fair teachers, coaches, community leaders, and government officials. Alos, ask for God's wisdom to see unjust situations at home, at school, on the job, and in the community, and for God's courage to do what we can to change them. Ask the choir to sing "Lead Me, Lord, in Thy Righteousness" (a paraphrase of Psalm 25:4-5) as a choral call to this prayer.

3. Psalm 25 is best understood and claimed when it is read in its original responsive form from a translation such as Today's English Version, the Good News Bible. So invite the congregation (or half the congregation) to read verses 1-7, with the understanding that they are "I." A worship leader (or the other half of the congregation) then can assume the priest's part and read verses 8-10 to assure the worshipers that God wants the same things for them.

4. One effective use of the Epistle passage would be to recite verses 12 and 13 from the Good News Bible as the charge and benediction with which worship concludes.

Sermon Resources

1. Challenge children to draw a picture of an unjust or unfair situation and a picture of the same people in the same situation acting justly or fairly. Provide blank space on the worship bulletin or suggest using the back of a pew card. Invite them to share the pictures with you as they leave the sanctuary. Take time to learn what caused the difference in the two pictures.

2. Everyone likes stories in which seemingly hopeless situations come to a happy ending. The beast in Beauty and the Best felt hopelessly trapped by the spell that could be broken only when a woman loved him. Kevin, accidentally left behind by his family in Home Alone, had to defend himself and his home from robbers. Jeremiah promises that one day God will bring all the unfair, seemingly hopeless situations in our world to fair, happy solutions. (Beauty and the Beast is the richer example because two people must learn to love before the situation is resolved.) Both videos are available on Netflix, in video rental stores and in many public libraries.

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