Worship for Kids: December 8, 2019

October 31st, 2019

From a Child's Point of View

Old Testament: Isaiah 11:1-10. Because they are so dependent on their leaders, children are very appreciative of those who are fair. A teacher who grades fairly, a coach who gives everyone a chance, or a Scout leader who does not play favorites is highly valued. Having had experience with leaders who are less than fair, children appreciate the fair ones and claim God's promise of a totally fair leader.

A sprout growing out of a stump is not common enough in nature to assume that children (or urban adults) will be familiar with the phenomenon. It will need to be scientifically explained before children will understand Isaiah's message. Older children, once they understand the Jesse tree, often find great hope in it for all the seemingly hopeless situations in their lives and world.

Psalm: 72:1-7, 18-19. This psalm praises two leaders: Solomon (and his son); and God's messiah. Children begin to understand the psalm when they hear it as a public prayer for King Solomon, and they can add their prayers for their own leaders. Then they are primed to think about GOd's promised leader, who is more fair than even the most just human leaders.

Epistle: Romans 15:4-13. One example of God's justice is that God kept the promise that Jesus would come to the Jewish people. (Keeping promises is part of God's justice.) But Jesus kept the promise for everyone else. God's justice is for everyone, so God wants us to work on getting along with all people. For Paul, that meant spending his life introducing the Christian faith to non-Jews and trying to help Jews and Gentiles get along. For children today, it means treating everyone—people of other ethnic, economic, or neighborhood groups; and even people they do not like—with love and respect.

Because this is a complex passage, few children will make any sense of the text as it is read. Plan to present its message to children through the sermon.

Gospel: Matthew 3:1-12. Children are fascinated by the colorful aspects of John the Baptist. They need to hear that John wore animal skins and ate locusts (grasshoppers) and honey because they were easy to find. John was too busy telling people about God's justice to spend time cooking or finding neat clothes. Compare his dedication to that of athletes preparing for the Olympics, or a person who is so busy making a gift for a friend that she forgets to eat.

John's poetic images (Abraham's children, axes laid to trees, sandals to be carried, winnowing forks, chaff burning in unquenchable fires) are too much to explain in one worship service. So simply present John's message in words children understand—that God does not care whether your families are rich or poor, whether your brothers and sisters are smart and attractive or embarrassing, whether your friends are the "in" group or "nerds," or which church you go to. God cares about what you do. God expects you to live by God's rules or to repent (change your ways).

Watch Words

Children use fairness instead of justice. Fairness is often applied to everyday situations, while justice seems removed from everyday concerns. Use the terms interchangeably and often, to help children recognize their connection.

Define repent if you use it. John does not want us to be sorry for the unjust things we do. He wants us to stop treating people "unfairly" or "unjustly."

Avoid Gentile. Speak instead of God's justice, which includes all people. Name specific, familiar groups that are treated today as Gentiles were treated in Paul's day.

Let the Children Sing

"Hail to the Lord's Anointed" is based on Psalm 72. Older children can match the verses in the psalm with those in the hymn, but the vocabulary of the hymn is challenging, even for twelve-year-olds.

"Lord, I Want to Be a Christian" is the easiest hymn with which children can sing their repentance.

The Liturgical Child

1. In the worship center, display a Jesse tree. Ask a creative person to make an arrangement in which an evergreen branch is drilled into a small stump, or a pot covered with burlap to look like a stump. Or wrap a sand-filled bucket with brown craft paper to look like a stump, and "plant" a small tree or evergreen branch in the bucket.

2. While lighting the candle of God's promised justice as the second candle of the Advent wreath, read Isaiah's prophecy, or some statement such as this:

We all want to be treated fairly. God has promised that one day we will be. Last week we lighted the first candle of Advent, for God's promised peace. Today we light the second candle, for God's promised justice. We light it for all the little kids who are picked on, for those whose poverty means they never get a fair chance at anything, and for those who live in countries ruled by unfair people and laws. God promises that day there will be justice for us all.

3. Invite the congregation to read Psalm 72 as if they were in a crowd, shouting to a king they hope will be a just leader. Divide the congregation in half and ask the people to read the verses alternately, loudly and enthusiastically.

4. If you pray for just leaders, include children's leaders—teachers, coaches, and club leaders.

5. Create a litany prayer of petitions, to each of which the congregational response is, "Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven."

Sermon Resources

1. Explore Old Testament stories about our longing for, and failure to attain, justice. As each story is told, add a poster board ornament to your Jesse tree (Or ask a child to add the ornament). Consider the following ornaments/stories:

• Adam and Eve begin the human failure to live by God's rules (an apple with a bite out of it).

• Through Moses, God gave us a clear set of rules for just living. But God's people immediately and repeatedly to proved that knowing the rules does not give us the power to create just world (Ten Commandment tablets).

• David and Solomon tried to build a just nation. Though they did well, neither was perfectly just, and the kings who ruled after them were often miserable failures. No human can establish God's justice (star of David, or crown).

• Knowing that we could neither follow just rules nor build a just world on our own, God promised to establish the justice. God would send a Messiah. Describe how Jesus inaugurated this justice in his ministry, death, and resurrection (cross and crown).

2. Invite children and other worshipers to create new pairings of animals who will get along. Such pairings lead to joining usually uncooperative human groups.

3. Paraphrase Paul's encouragement to Jews and Gentiles to get along. Address it to different groups that do not treat one another well today. Consider including older and younger brothers and sisters, rival school groups, even "the boys" and "the girls." Such a paraphrase might be repeated as the Charge and Benediction.

4. Open a sermon on justice with the cry, "But it's not fair!" followed by examples ranging from a child whose friends are going to a movie while she must visit a sick aunt with her family, to a poor athlete who tries hard but never gets the good results of a gifted athlete who hardly seems to try at all, to people who live under oppressive governments and social systems.

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