Worship for Kids: December 1, 2019

October 8th, 2019

From a Child's Point of View

Old Testament: Isaiah 2:1-5. On television and in newspaper photographs, children see the gruesome results and reality of wars and struggles between ethnic groups. Though children cannot cite names and details of the conflicts, they often feel deeply for the victims in the pictures and may fear such experiences for themselves. In their own community, they may observe or even participate in ethnic conflict. At the very least, they hear racial/ethnic jokes and slurs. All this makes welcome news of Isaiah's promise that one day all nations and groups will live together peacefully.

Because children think concretely until about the age of twelve, they take Isaiah's word picture in verse 2 literally, and thus see little Mount Zion magically rise until it towers over the Himalayas. So either explain Isaiah's coded message or focus attention on the verses that follow.

Psalm: 122. A pilgrim song praising Jerusalem as the spiritual/political capital of "my people" is hard for non-Jewish Christians of any age to join in singing today. Symbolic thinkers can equate Jerusalem with the heart, or center, of God's people, wherever they may be. But children do not think symbolically, so this psalm seems strange.

Gospel: Matthew 24:36-44. Apocalyptic passages are generally difficult for children to interpret. This one, however, offers a clear, easy-to-understand warning ("Watch out, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come!"), with a familiar example of what happens when a warning is ignored (those who died in "Noah's flood").

Although the aim in the cited examples (those killed in the flood and the victim of the thief) is to avoid judgment or danger, remember that our watchfulness also enables us to be ready for good things (God's coming).

Epistle: Romans 13:11-14. Although the apocalyptic language in this passage is all but impossible for children to interpret, the message makes quick sense to children when it is linked to the Gospel lesson for the day: Because we know that God is coming among us, we should follow God's teachings. Choose your translation carefully, paying special attention to the list of sinful activities to be avoided. The Good News Bible is especially clear.

"Drunkenness" and "indecency" are no longer strictly adult sins. Fifth- and sixth-graders are especially vulnerable. Many drug and alcohol abusers tell about first experiences at the age of eleven or twelve. General "immorality" needs to be made specific by reference to the Ten Commandments. "Fighting" and "jealousy" are chronic at all ages; examples from family and neighborhood life abound.

Watch Words

Plowshares, pruning hooks, and sickles are not familiar tools today. You will need to describe them before children can understand Isaiah's prophecy.

Tell the children that Son of Man in Matthew is simply another name for Jesus.

Avoid words such as debauchery, licentiousness, and reveling. Instead, talk about drug and alcohol abuse, fighting, greed, jealousy, and breaking rules to get your own way.

Let the Children Sing

"O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" is an Advent hymn with abstract language unfamiliar to children, but with music that offers sad verses, followed by a happy promise in the chorus. The verse that begins "O come, Desire of nations bind all peoples" is a prayer for world peace. Point this out before the congregation sings the hymn. Paraphrase the prayer in the verse and the promise in the chorus in simple, concrete words. Encourage children to sing that verse, even if they cannot sing the others.

With urging, even nonreading children can join in on the repeated opening lines of the verses in "Christ for the World We Sing." Much of the poetic language of the rest of the hymn is hard for children to read and interpret.

Older children can follow the music and message of "In Christ There Is No East or West," especially if it is sung frequently in your congregation.

The Liturgical Child

1. To emphasize God's presence with us both in worship and in our daily life, sing, or have a choir or older children's class, sing "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence" both before the call to worship and before the benediction.

Call to Worship: God comes to be with us when we worship. Let us sing, and listen, and pray in God's presence.

Charge and Benediction: God is coming into our world. Pay attention! Be ready! Live as God's people! And God's peace will be with you, and it will spread out until it includes the whole world! Amen.

2. Many children learn "Dona Nobis Pacem," a prayer for peace, at church school or camp. To use it in worship today.

• Invite a children's class or choir to sing the round as the first candle of the Advent wreath is lighted. Introduce the candle as the candle of God's promised peace.

• Invite the congregation to sing the basic melody as a response to each of a series of short prayers for peace in our families, our community, and the world.

Note: The candles of the Advent wreath do not have any set meanings; this opens up the possibility of linking them to the texts of the day. This year's texts suggest a series of God's promises, beginning with God's peace.

3. After reading the implications of Paul's instructions in Romans 13:11-14, reread it as the Charge, reminding the worshipers that Paul was speaking to each of us.

Sermon Resources

1. Create modern paraphrases of Isaiah's weapons-to-tools prophecy. For example, tanks could be turned into tractors, and aircraft carriers could be refitted as floating sport camps or cruise ships. What are the possibilities for missiles, machine guns, hand grenades and so forth? (The Worship Worksheet challenges children to draw these conversions.)

2. To explore the importance of watching and being ready, tell stories:

• Tell three parallel stories about what children, youths, and adults did the day before the flood; the day Jesus was born in Bethlehem; and a "normal" day today. Include in each story examples of people who are being watchful, as Paul instructed, and others who are not.

• Tell a story about a child who stayed at a friend's house long past time to return home and missed sharing a treat brought by a neighbor. (This story sets up a situation in which we are urged to do right—not to avoid punishment, but to avoid missing out on something desirable. Paul was not as concerned that the Romans would be punished if not prepared as that they would miss out on sharing in the joy of God's presence and peace.)

• Describe preparations for the visit of a much-loved out-of-town relative. Mention house cleaning, panning meals and activities that person would enjoy, thinking of things you want to share with them and ask them. Then talk about preparing for God's presence. Describe "cleaning" the jealousy and quarreling out of our families and "cleaning" racial jokes and names out of our mouths, because God has promised to bring peace to all the people of the world. Explore some of Paul's other instructions in a similar way.

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