Tis only the Ides of October, but I’ll bet most worship planners are already thinking about Advent – lots! So,
The Advent Project ( http://www.theadventproject.org/index.htm ) is a move to restore Advent from four to seven weeks. I don’t think it offers much to children. But because I keep hearing about congregations that are trying it, I have been playing with it. “The O Antiphons” is one ancient prayer they feature. There are seven petitions in the prayer, each one addressed to a different name of Jesus. The prayers themselves are filled with beautiful poetic images that would be hard to unpack with children in worship. But, I am taken by the possibility of devoting time during Advent to names for Jesus. While waiting for a baby to be born a family ponders lots of different names for the child. Identifying and exploring names for Jesus during Advent might be a parallel process. I can think of a couple of ways to do this in worship.
Present a poster/banner for each title to display in worship each week. It might even be an enlarged “Hello, my name is” name tag bearing the title for each week.
Briefly explore what the name of the week tells us about Jesus.
Close with a simple waiting prayer that begins with the name of the week.
The names could be explored one Sunday each or the names and prayer petitions could accumulate as the season progresses. It would also be possible to do all seven of the names on the seven Sundays of an expanded Advent or to select four to use during a four Sunday Advent. Since some of the titles are hard for children, I might substitute some other more child accessible names for Jesus.
This is a seed idea. If anyone develops it or knows of other ways of using the O Antiphons with children, please share. Below are my working notes on the individual petitions as grist for your mills.
Recall things Jesus taught us
Prayer: “O Wisdom, come and teach us”
Display Alpha – Omega symbols to explore Jesus being Lord of all times
Prayer: “O Come Lord Jesus”
“O, Ruler of the Nations”
Use a globe to point out all the places where Jesus is Ruler, i.e. everywhere. Admit to the problems in different places and look forward to the day when Jesus will get it all straightened out.
Prayer: “O Ruler of the Nations, come rule the whole world.”
“O, Root of Jesse” – this is a hard one
Talk about names that get passed down through families – junior, III, etc. or specific names that get folded into a child’s name so they know they are part of a family. In Jesus’ case we know who he is. He is part of the family.
Prayer: “O Son of Jesse, come lead our family.”
“O Key of David” – an even harder one! “Key of David” will probably be unfamiliar to all worshipers. It is about the authority of David that Jesus took to another level. It rather repeats both the “Ruler of the Nations” and “Root of Jesse” themes. Ideas?????
“O, Morning Star”
If you use blue in Advent, talk about the color of the sky of the sky before dawn (in the northern hemisphere many children are heading to school under such skies). Talk about waiting for something that is almost, but not quite here and about Jesus who shows us what God really intends even if it is not quite here.
Prayer: “O morning star, come light up our world.”
Explore the meaning of “God with us.” Connect to “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” or explore the ways different characters in the Christmas story were surprised to find that God was with them.
Prayer: “O come, Emmanuel. Be with us today.”