Worship for Kids: December 27, 2020

November 7th, 2020

First Sunday After Christmas

From a Child's Point of View

Gospel: Luke 2:22-40. Because children are interested in babies, they are interested in what happened during this Temple rite. Comparing the purposes of those rites to today's baptism or dedication of infants is helpful. Both are ways of saying that this baby is one of God's people.

The stories of Simeon and Anna will be unfamiliar to most children. But during a week that may include visits with grandparents, children will be interested in these two older people. Again, Luke tells of God's singling out two unimportant people to recognize the Christ Child. Both Anna and Simeon were very old and, as far as we know, did nothing noteworthy during their long lives. They simply lived day to day, worshiping God and loving people around them. The implication is that God approved of their dedicated lives and that people who live as Anna and Simeon did will also be able to recognize God at work.

Epistle: Galatians 4:4-7. Children recognize and follow the opening summary of Jesus' birth, then quickly get lost in the maze of references to the Law, to adoption, and to sonship. Paul's complex point is beyond them. Children may, however, hear from the preacher an invitation to be God's children, calling upon God as Jesus did.

Psalm: 148. Today this is a response to God's love as expressed in the birth of Jesus and in the joy and happiness the worshipers have experienced while celebrating this Christmas. Younger children enjoy the calls to specific animals, weather, and other parts of creation to praise God. They quickly add their own calls to other parts of the universe to join the praise. Older children realize that animals and inanimate objects cannot praise God in the same way humans can. They are more comfortable in addressing new calls for praise to different groups of people. Its simple words and familiar vocabulary make this a psalm that middle-elementary students can read with the congregation.

Old Testament: Isaiah 61:10-62:3. The profusion of poetic images make this the least child-accessible of today's texts. If the clothing images of verse 10 and the garden images of verse 11 are illustrated in concrete detail, and the meaning of the verses is presented in paraphrase, as below, children will begin to get the prophet's point.

I will rejoice in the Lord!
My whole being will praise my God!
God has dressed me with saving love
and covered me up with righteousness
In God's clothes, I am as well dressed as
a bridegroom and bride wearing their very
--best clothes, jewels, and flowers.
Just as the earth makes plants grow,
God makes justice and praise grow for all to see.

Watch Words

Dedication is used a little differently in the texts today from the way we generally use it in church. Today it is a specific ritual for first-born Jewish sons. They were "set aside for" or dedicated for God. Parents then reclaimed their sons by paying a small ransom to the priest in charge. The Bible tells us that some special sons, such as Samuel, and perhaps Jesus, were not paid for and thus remained set aside for God. Point out signs that identify items or buildings at your church that are dedicated to God.

Let the Children Sing

"All Creatures of Our God and King" parallels the praises of Psalms 148 and is filled with Alleluias that even nonreaders can join in on.

Before singing "Angels from the Realms of Glory," point out the clue words with which the verses begin. These words tell us who we will be singing about in that verse. If the last verse in your hymnal begins with the line "Saints before the altar bending," suggest that Simeon and Anna are two such saints, bending before the altar in Jerusalem. Younger children will simply join in on the repeated chorus.

"Good Christian Friends, Rejoice," with its repeated phrases, is another good choice for young readers.

The Liturgical Child

1. Light the four Advent candles and the Christ candle, saying:

Today we light the four candles of Advent waiting. But we also light the Christmas candle, the Christ candle. We light it because Jesus was born in Bethlehem in a barn. We light it because Jesus showed us how much God loves us. We light it because Jesus died and rose again to forgive us. We light it because Jesus is our Lord!

2. Keep the Christmas pageant going. Ask a couple with a young infant to play Mary, Joseph, and Jesus. Ask two older members of the congregation to take the roles of Simeon and Anna. These costumed actors pantomime the story as it is read. Simeon takes the baby in his arms, raises his head to address the "Nunc Dimittis" to God, then turns to speak to the parents before returning the baby to them. Anna then comes close to see the baby. With happy face, she turns to God, her arms outstretched in the classical position of praise. You may want one reader or two, with a man reading Simeon's story and a woman reading Anna's. The Good News Bible offers the easiest translation for children.

3. Choose a musical version of "Nunc Dimittis" for the benediction. Many new hymnals include several versions. In "The Song of Simeon," Simeon's request to depart in peace (having seen God's Son) can be shared by worshipers who are departing from worship in peace after celebrating the birth of that Son. The words of this version are simple enough for children to understand. The tune is a lilting folk melody.

4. Remember children's week-after-Christmas concerns in the church's prayers. After weeks of parties and anticipated gifts, there is little left to look forward to. Some children probably were disappointed; others may have received the gifts they wanted but found them less satisfying than they expected. And the winter weather may have everyone cooped up in the house.

Sermon Resources

1. Compare the experiences of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus during the days after Christmas with our experiences during the days after Christmas. Describe the hassles of return trips: Their trip with a newborn baby and our trips back home after enjoyable but tiring Christmas trips. Tell about the dedication in the Temple with Simeon's greeting and warning, and about settling down as a family in Nazareth. Point out that God continued to work in the everyday events of their lives. Then point out that God is still at work and needs our help in the dreary days after Christmas as much as during the exciting days before Christmas.

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