Worship for Kids: December 23, 2018

November 15th, 2018

From a Child's Point of View

Today's Scriptures celebrate God's choice of small, insignificant people and places, for the big, exciting tasks. For children who often feel small, insignificant, and overlooked, this offers hope.

Old Testament: Micah 5:2-5a. Micah announces that God's promised leader will not come from a big, famous city, but from Bethlehem, the littlest town in one of the smallest tribes in the Jewish nation. That's like being born in a small town in the smallest state or province in the country. Comparing Bethlehem to an insignificant town in your area gives it reality.

Gospel: Luke 1:39-45 and Psalm: Luke 1:46 b-55. Mary praises God for choosing her, a poor nobody, to be the mother of the Messiah. Although adults may wish she had been a bit more humble, children can identify with her excitement: "From now on people will call me happy, because of the great things the Mighty God has done for me" (48b-49 GNB). Any child who has ever been chosen last for a ball game or a spelling bee can appreciate being chosen first, over much more likely candidates. Older children can hear Mary celebrate God's preference for the poor and overlooked. For children who do experience poverty and oppression in their daily lives, this is welcome news. For children who know they are among "the proud," "the mighty," and "the rich," it is as disconcerting as it is for their parents. But this message can remind them not to look down on those whowear poorer clothes, have less money, are less gifted, or are less "anything" than they are. It can remind all children that being the biggest, the best, or the most is not God's main goal for their lives.

Alternate Psalm: Psalm 80:1-7. To understand this prayer, hearers need to know about the winged figures on the Ark of the Covenant; recognize the names of the tribes of Israel; and understand the situation during the Babylonian exile. This one is definitely for adult Bible students. Epistle: Hebrews 10:5-10. The technical discussion of atonement theology is beyond children. The one phrase in this passage that can speak to them is Christ's statement, "Here I am, O God, to do your will." It echoes Mary's annunciation response: "I am the Lord's servant. Let it happen to me as you have said" Luke 1:38 GNB). It calls each of us, no matter what our age, to do whatever God wants us to do. Children, although aware of the loving actions God would have them take (e.g., when a younger sibling wants help or a classmate is teasing unkindly), often choose easier, more self-serving courses. This passage reminds them that, like Jesus, they are to be God's obedient servants.

Watch Words

Fortunately, we have yet to invent a complicated word for God's tendency to work through the insignificant rather than the powerful. So vocabulary holds few traps today. If you use the term Magnificat for Mary's song, explain its Latin origin.

Let the Children Sing

"O Little Town of Bethlehem," although it focuses on tiny Bethlehem, is not a carol children understand or generally choose to sing. Either "Away in a Manger" or "Once in David's Royal City" stress the humbleness of Jesus' birth in children's language. "My Soul Gives Glory to My God," based on Mary's song of praise, is a new hymn with simple words and a familiar tune.

The Liturgical Child

1. Invite two women to read the Gospel and Psalm. One (perhaps an older woman) might read the narration in verses 39-46a, and the other (perhaps a teenager) might read Mary's song in 46b-55. Practice with "Mary" to prepare a strong, dramatic reading full of feeling. The Good News Bible provides the clearest translation of Mary's song for children.

2. Create a litany prayer of petition and intercession. The congregation's response to each request is like Jesus statement: HERE WE ARE, O GOD, TO DO YOUR WILL. Include such prayers as:

God of Christmas, we are filled with plans and hopes for this week. Some of us are excited about special gifts we have ready for those we love. Some of us are looking forward to visits with family or dear friends. Others of us face Christmas with less pleasure. Christmas looks more like a lonely endurance test. So we begin our before-Christmas prayers by asking you to be with us. In our excitement, keep us kind and loving. In our loneliness, keep us aware of the needs of others.

(RESPONSE)

God of Mary and Elizabeth, we pray for all the forgotten, unimportant people. We pray for those who are poor, who are sleeping in cars and under bridges. We pray for those who are hungry and do not know when they will have their next meal. We pray for people who are friendless, ignored, and pushed aside. We know that you care about each of these people. Be with us and show us ways to love them.

(RESPONSE)

God, who greeted the shepherds with "peace on earth," we pray for your peace on earth today . . .

(RESPONSE)

3. Before the offering plates are passed, point out that we can help to do God's will by giving money to support the ministry of the church. Name one or two familiar efforts that are funded by your congregation. Instruct worshipers to say (either silently or aloud), "Here I am, O God, to do your will" as they place their offering in the plate.

Sermon Resources

1. Remember some of the insignificant people God chose, such as Miriam, who advised a princess on the care of her brother; David, the youngest brother who became king; Esther, the pretty teenager who saved her people from a ruthless oppressor; and the scruffy bunch Jesus chose as his friends and disciples.

2. Tell the stories of the insignficant people God uses today, such as Samantha Smith, the Maine schoolgirl who wrote a letter to Mikhail Gorbachev urging peace. When Gorbachev invited Samantha to visit the Soviet Union, she became a goodwill ambassador between the United States and the Soviet Union. The Soviets printed a stamp with her picture on it. Such stories challenge children (and all of us unimportant people) to be God's servants where we are.

3. If there is a Chrismon tree in your sanctuary, point out and describe the significance of ornaments related to today's theme:

—Stars—Consider building a sermon around the stars on the tree, particularly if Christmas Eve is on the fourth Sunday of Advent or falls early in the week. You may have a five-pointed nativity star, the six-pointed star of David, and Creation Stars (these may have seven points, or lots of toothpick rays). Check a Chrismons book for descriptions of other star designs.

—Rose Centered on a Star—The rose is a symbol for both Mary and Jesus. Centered on a star, the rose reminds us that Mary's decision to do God's will made the star of Bethlehem possible.

—The Shepherd's Cross—This may be the one way to present the message of Psalm 80 to children—that the Messiah will lead us as a shepherd leads and cares for the sheep.

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