Worship for Kids: December 16, 2018

November 12th, 2018

From a Child's Point of View

"God is at work in and through history, reconciling all the world to himself." In children's words, God has a plan that we all will become friends with one another and with God. God is working on this plan every day. God has the power to make this plan work, and God wants us to help.

Old Testament: Zephaniah 3:14-20. To fully understand the word pictures in this poem, the hearer must have detailed knowledge of Old Testament history. Most children do not. However, if they are told that when the prophet spoke of Jerusalem and Zion, he also was speaking of all God's people (even us today), and if they are challenged to listen to the passage as if it were addressed to each of them as one of God's people (which it is), then they can grasp the prophet's message that God's plan has a good ending for them and that God has the power to make this plan a reality.

Psalm: Isaiah 12:2-6. This song of praise was included in today's lections as a response to the messages of Zephaniah, John the Baptist, and Paul. It is full of short, simple phrases praising the strong, active God who saves us.

Gospel: Luke 3:7-18. When reading this passage with the other lections for the day, do not place the emphasis on John's call to repentance, but on his expectation of One who is coming from God; One so great that John is not worthy to tie his shoelaces; One who will baptize us with the Holy Spirit; and, yes, One who will judge us.

John's sense of expectation might be compared to the way an eight-year-old would feel if Michael Jordan were coming to coach her basketball team, or if she were going to study with a New York ballet company. Joy, excitement, fear of higher standards, and hope for what she could become as she works with some of the best instructors in the world, would be all rolled up together. Expectantly, she would practice harder to be ready. With this as a frame of reference, children can sense John's excitement that God is coming to live among us; they can understand John's insistence that we get ready by working harder to live up to God's standards.

Epistle: Philippians 4:4-9. Paul restates John's message to encourage his friends at Philippi. Paul's list (vs. 8) is abstract. Children will need help in identifying which kinds of interests and activities fall in each category (e.g., a backyard club may not be pure and noble if it cuts people out and encourages ridicule). The vocabulary in the New International Version of the Bible is the clearest for children.

Watch Words

Avoid theological generalities like salvation and reconciliation. Instead, talk about specifics. Praise God for specific saving events in the life of your congregation and community. Cite local examples of people who have become friends with one another and with God.

Let the Children Sing

"Rejoice, the Lord Is King" is a good choice because the chorus can be sung even by nonreading children.

"Now Thank We All Our God" is a praise hymn frequently suggested in church school materials. Its familiarity and concrete language make it another good choice.

The Liturgical Child

1. Plan for two people to read the Gospel—one to read the words of John the Baptist and the other to read the narrative. One reader could stand in the lectern, the other in the pulpit. Or a dramatic "John," perhaps in costume, could memorize his lines, come through a side door, speak from the front of the sanctuary, and leave. In preparation for either approach, practice with "John" answering the questioners in verses 10-14 in a way that would encourage the questioners to prepare for the wonderful One who is coming, rather than berate them.

2. Read Zephaniah 3:14-20 (GNB) responsively to get the happy feeling of these promises. Assign half the congregation to read #1 and the other half to read #2. Read "ALL" in unison.

ALL: Sing and shout for joy, people of Israel!
Rejoice with all your heart, Jerusalem!

#1: The LORD, the king of Israel, is with you;
#2: he has removed all your enemies.

#1: The LORD, the king of Israel, is with you;
#2: there is no reason now to be afraid.

ALL: The time is coming when they will say to Jerusalem,

#1: "Do not be afraid, city of Zion!
#2: Do not let your hands hang limp!

ALL: The LORD will take delight in you.

#1: The LORD will take delight in you.
#2: and in his love he will give you new life.

#1: He will sing and be joyful over you,
#2: as joyful as people at a festival."

ALL: The LORD says,

#1: "I have ended the threat of doom
#2: and taken away your disgrace.

ALL: The time is coming!

#1: I will punish your opressors;
#2: I will rescue all the lame

#1: and bring all exiles home.
#2: I will turn their shame to honor, and all the world will praise him.

ALL: The time is coming!

#1: I will bring your scattered people home;
#2: I will make you famous throughout the world and make you prosperous once again."

ALL: The LORD has spoken.

3. Present (reciting if possible) the Philippians texts as a personal charge to worshipers just before the benediction.

Sermon Resources

1. Spin a tale in which children in your town prepare for the arrival of Micahel Jordan, who is to coach their basketball team.

2. If you focus on the questions to John about what preparations to make, challenge the children (and other worshipers) to imagine what John would say to them during this Advent season, if they were to ask, "What should I do, John?" To prime their thinking, re-create John's encounter to include people of today. Try a few safely obvious ones, such as:

The sports professionals asked, "What shall we do?" and John replied, "Be content with reasonable salaries. Play fair."

But also tackle students, businessmen, Christmas gift buyers, and so on.

3. If you have a Chrismon tree in your sanctuary, point out and describe the significance of ornaments that relate to today's theme. Consider some of the following:

—Cross Over the World—God has a wonderful plan for the whole world. God's plan will be successful.
—Jerusalem Cross—God's plan began with Jesus in Jerusalem and spread to the four corners of the earth.
—Crowns—Jesus is King!

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