Worship for Kids: February 3, 2018

December 20th, 2018

From a Child's Point of View

Old Testament: Jeremiah 1:4-10. God knew Jeremiah before he was born and had a plan for him. God assured Jeremiah that he was capable of following the plan, and God promised to be with him all the way. Although it is possible for children to hear Jeremiah's story as if it were a special case involving someone very unlike themselves, with direction, they can hear in it the truth before they were born, God has a plan for each of their lives, God has given them everything they need to follow those plans, and God will be with them each step of the way. Each person is important to God. As one poster puts it, "God don't make no junk." (This is a great text for encouraging Christian self-esteem!) The fact that Jeremiah was young when God called him challenges children to begin doing God's work now instead of waiting until they grow up.

Psalm: 71:1-6. This is the prayer of an old poet who knows from experience that God does indeed care for those who do God's work. Now in a tight corner, the poet calls on God for help (vss. 1-3) and remembers that God has helped in the past (vss. 4-6). Once children understand this, they will "catch" a few of the short phrases as the text is read, but probably will not follow the passage as a whole.

Epistle: 1 Corinthians 13:1-13. The most relevant message here for children is that the way to grow up is not to grow smarter, more skillful, or more articulate, but to grow more loving. Few children, however, will hear this message from the text on their own. You will need to point it out to them, and then work through verses 4-7, which explore grown-up love. Consult several translations to gather the adjectives that will most clearly describe love to these particular children. To help younger children understand these verses, paraphrase them: "A loving person is . . . ," rather than "Love is. . . ."

Gospel: Luke 4:21-30. The message of this passage—God comes not only to us and to our friends, but also to some people we think are not worthy of God's attention—is one children need to hear and can respond to. But they (and many adults) will have difficulty pulling the message from the text. It helps to review or reread the beginning of the story in verses 16-20. Even so, most people will hear Jesus' point in the sermon, rather than in the lesson reading. Though youths and adults will benefit from explanations of Jesus' Old Testament examples, few children will follow them. Count on getting the children's attention when you summarize the message and explore its meaning for today. Identify some of the people in your community to whom God and Jesus come: the homeless, troublemakers at school, kids who are slow academically, "wimps," people with handicaps, people of other races, and so on.

Watch Words

Try friendship or a loving friend, rather than love, for the sake of boys for whom love is a sweet, sissy term used by mothers and in sexual relationships.

In Jeremiah 1 and Psalm 71, the Good News Bible speaks of before I was born, rather than from the womb, which bypasses the giggles of children who know what a womb is and speaks clearly to those who do not.

Let the Children Sing

Try "I Sing a Song of the Saints of God," a singable new hymn that is becoming a favorite.

Children can begin learning "God of Grace and God of Glory," a more traditional hymn of commitment, by joining in on "grant us wisdom, grant us courage."

"Lord, I Want to Be a Christian," with its verses about being more loving, joins the commitment theme in Jeremiah's call with the "love chapter."

The Liturgical Child

1. Assign two readers or two halves of the congregation to read the psalm. Name one reader "Help Me, God" (vss. 1-3) and the other "I Can Trust God" (vss. 4-6), to reflect the message of these two sections of the psalm.

2. Use 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 as an outline for a prayer of confession. A leader prays each line, leaving a time of silence for individual confessions (e.g., "Love is patient and kind . . ." [Pause] "Love is not jealous or conceited or proud . . ." [Pause], etc.). Or the leader and congregation can read a responsive confession:

Love is patient and kind:

Lord, it is hard to be patient when there is so much we need to do and want to do. When other people slow us down, it is easy to forget to be kind.

Love is not jealous or conceited or proud;

But we are, God. We look at some people and think we are better than they are. We look at others and feel jealous of what they have and can do. Forgive us.

Love is not ill-mannered or selfish or irritable;

But we often blurt out rude, hurting names and accusations, almost before we know what we are saying. Help us learn to think before we speak.

Love does not keep a recording of wrongs;

But we remember even those wrongs we have really tried to forgive. We remember them and bring them up when we are angry or when we want our own way. We use them to hurt even the people we love. Help us to forgive and forget.

Love is not happy with evil; love is happy with truth;

But it is hard not to take secret delight when people get what they had coming to them. Teach us compassion, God.

Love never gives up; and its faith, hope, and patience never fail.

But we give up easily. We give up on other people. We give up on ourselves. We give up on making a difference. We lose hope that anything will ever be any different. Forgive us, for we pray in Jesus' name. Amen.

Assurance of Pardon: Hear this about God's great love! God is patient and kind. God does not keep a record of our wrongs. God does not remember our failings at loving, but is happy about every one of our successes. God never gives up on us because God's love is forever!

3. For the charge and benediction, paraphrase God's call to Jeremiah as a call to each worshiper: "I chose you before I gave you life. . . . Do not be afraid, but go to the people to whom I send you. . . . I will protect you and give you the words you need."

Sermon Resources

1. To explore Luke's lesson, tell a story in which Jesus comes to visit a playground, skating rink, or other place where children gather in your area. In your story, have all the children recognize Jesus and try to get his attention so he will talk and play with them and their friends. Describe some of the groups vying for Jesus' attention and their tactics. Then describe Jesus choosing to reach out to some children who are usually overlooked or looked down on. Tailor the story to fit your community.

2. To explore Paul's message about being a Christian grown-up, create a parable in which four "children" try to be grown-ups in different ways: One tries to act like a grown-up by wearing make-up, insisting on staying up late, even drinking or smoking; another tries to act grown up by bossing everyone around (pretending to know everything); a third tries to make it with grown-ups by doing everything they want (becoming teacher's pet); and a fourth person tries to love and take care of other people. Challenge your hearers to decide which one was grown up, according to Paul's definition.

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