This Sunday is New Year’s Eve of the church year. We conclude the year remembering that Christ is the beginning and end of all life and remembering his story as we have followed it through the concluding year. Next Sunday we begin again. That makes this a good opportunity to take the long view of the church year.
t Bring out all the seasonal paraments and drape them over the central table in order. Connect each one to its season.
t Give the children a coloring sheet of the church year and crayons with which to color in the seasons adding important words and pictures that go with each season.
|I would give this sketch to an artist in the congregation for “slicking up.”|
t Devote the whole service or just the sermon to reviewing the year. Using the lessons and carols format, read a key text, talk about the main theme, pray a prayer, and sing a song from each season. One worship leader who did this changed her stole to match each season. Recall the ways your congregation has celebrated each season during the past year. Praise God for the journey through the seasons each year.
t Put the focus on the life of the Lord of the seasons. Tell a story of Jesus and sing a song about Jesus for each season. Children who often do not connect all the stories about Jesus into a whole especially benefit from the chance to connect them all. Adults benefit from rehearsing the long arc of the story and placing it in both all of history and the cycle of the church year.
Christ the King
t Go to Year C - Christ the King to read about how children understand kings and ideas based on the kind of king Jesus chose to be.
Christ the Cosmic Power
t Children are intensely interested in power. They recognize early that they have very little and aspire to have more. The parents, teachers, and baby sitters have absolute power. The biggest and oldest among them have certain power within the group. They admire superheroes with super powers. This Sunday says to them that Jesus has all the power in the universe, always has had it and always will. But Jesus chose not to use that power to get all the good stuff for himself. Instead he used it to take care of and love people. He calls himself a shepherd king. And, he calls us to use our power in the same caring, loving way.
AUTHORITY DOMINION REIGN RULE POWER
Children need help with biblical power vocabulary. Authority, dominion , reign (sounds like a weather event to non-readers), even rule are unfamiliar terms. Choose one or two to use today. Make one or all of them into a POWER POSTER printing the words in big powerful fonts.
Christ, the Shepherd King
t Sheep and shepherds appear in several of the day’s texts. At the beginning of worship give children strips of small sheep stickers and instruct them to listen for the sheep in the songs, stories, prayers and sermon and to place a sticker in their printed order of worship each time they hear one. (Younger readers will put their stickers anywhere on the page. More proficient readers can be encouraged to place them at the correct spot on the page – and thus become more familiar with the printed order.)
t During a children’s time make shepherd’s crook crosses to take home as Bible bookmarks. Each child will need one pipe-cleaner to bend into the shepherd’s staff and a 2 inch piece of pipe cleaner to wrap around the staff forming the crossbar.
t Few urban or suburban children know much about sheep or shepherding. For many a shepherd is a fierce guard dog and a staff is a group of people at the school or recreation center. So display a cuddly stuffed sheep and talk about real sheep who do not smell very good, can’t find their own food, wander off if not watched constantly and wade into water that can soak their wool and drown them. As you talk slowly move from cuddling the stuffed sheep to holding it at an arms distance with disgust. Talk with admiration about the shepherds and the job they do taking care of sheep. Then, sitting the sheep in a prominent place for the rest of the service, note with surprise that Jesus compared himself to a shepherd and us as his sheep. Ponder why that fits and point to a song or prayer you will use today that refers to Jesus as shepherd.
t If all the shepherd talks leads you to sing Psalm 23, remember that there are many musical versions of it. Many however use the King James vocabulary that few children know. Probably the first choice is “The Lord’s My Shepherd, I’ll Not Want” (Scottish Psalter) because the tune is familiar to the congregation and because the words are closest to today’s English. “The Lord’s My Shepherd, All My Need” (Christopher L. Webber, 1986) has easier vocabulary but the tune is less familiar. Finally, “He Leadeth Me, O Blessed Thought” is a meditation on the theme of the psalm with an easy to read and understand repeated chorus.
It is also a fact that each congregation has its favorite Psalm 23 hymn which is sung with a passion children hear. If you select such a song, in a brief introduction explain one or two key words or phrases before inviting the congregation to sing it.
Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24
t I was struck by the difference it made when these verses are printed as poetry rather than prose. All the individual sheep images stand out more clearly. Go to Hedwyg's Blog to see it. Print it down the middle of a large sheet of paper leaving lots of marginal space. Read through it with children talking about the sheep and shepherds, then invite them to illustrate it during worship and post it on the rail at the front of the sanctuary or in some other designated place at the end of worship or at offertory time, if that is appropriate. Take time to look at and comment on any you see as children leave the sanctuary.
t Matthew has Jesus dividing the sheep from the goats. Ezekiel has the shepherd separating the lean from the fat sheep. Children understand Ezekiel more readily. Talk about the ways we push each other around to be first in line or get a good seat on the bus or get to the cookie plate first. Take time to show where human flanks and butts are and how we use them against each other. Children are delighted that the word butt is in the Bible and will remember Ezekiel’s message as they engage such shoving matches in the future.
t Turn the psalm into a congregational reading with many short lines that new as well as experienced readers can follow. (The two groups could be choir and congregation or two halves of the congregation.)
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Leader: Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth.
Group 1: Worship the Lord with gladness!
Group 2: Come into God’s presence with singing!
Leader: Know this! The Lord is God.
Group 1: Know this! We belong to the Lord who made us.
Group 2: Know this! We are God’s people,
and the sheep of God’s pasture.
and the sheep of God’s pasture.
Leader: So, enter God’s gates with thanksgiving,
Group 1: Come into the holy courts with praise.
Group 2: Give thanks to God and bless God’s holy name.
Leader: For the Lord is good;
Group 1: God’s steadfast love endures forever,
Group 2: God’s faithfulness is for all generations.
Based on NRSV and Presbyterian Book of Common Worship
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t If you sing “All People That on Earth Do Dwell” in the USA on the Sunday before Thanksgiving, have a soloist or the choir line it out for the congregation. That is the way the pilgrims sang it.
|from the rehearsal|
t On its 75th Anniversary one church called itself to worship using this psalm. Fifth graders read the verses. First through fourth graders came forward in groups waving streamers as each verse was read. They stood in place waving their streamers together as the congregation read, then swooped them to the ground as they dropped on one knee at the end of the final line. During the opening hymn that followed they returned their streamers to designated adults and joined their parents in the pews. It would make a good child-led Call to Worship for Christ the Kings Sunday which in the USA is also the Sunday before Thanksgiving.
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Psalm 95: 1-7a
Reader 1 Come, let us sing joyfully to God,
let us shout to the Rock of our salvation.
Reader 2: Let us greet God with thanksgiving;
let us joyfully sing psalms.
Reader 3: For Yahweh is a great God above all gods;
Reader 4: God cradles the depths of the earth and
holds fast the mountain peaks.
Reader 5: God shaped the sea and owns it and
formed the dry land by hand.
Reader 6: Come, let us bow down in worship;
let us kneel before the God who made us.
People: For Yahweh is our God,
and we are the people God cares for,
the flock God leads.
All readers: Brothers and sisters, praise the Lord.
People: The Lord’s name be praised!
Adapted from Psalms Anew,
by Nancy Schreck OSF and Maureen Leach OSF
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t If you are following the The Advent Project and using the O Antiphons (see The O Antiphons for Children????), today’s petition is “O Ruler of the Nations, come rule the whole world.” Introduce it by pointing on a globe or world map to places where Jesus rules. Since Jesus rules in all places, point to a variety of places like a beautiful national park, Disney World, and places that are filled with pain (today I’d include African where Ebola rages, the Middle East and a place where children dig food out of dumpsters). Conclude by pointing to your town. Follow this with a responsive prayer in which the leader offers a petition about each place pointed out to which the congregation responds, “O Ruler of nations, come rule the whole world”
t Paul insists that Christ is the most powerful force in the whole universe and that Christians can tap into Christ’s power. Christ, not monsters, evil leaders, bullies, scary storms, or anything else is the most powerful power there is. When we are connected to Christ and acting as Christ’s servants we also have great power. The CEV translation of verses 19 -23 makes this clearest to children.
t Beatrice’s Goat, by Page McBrier, is a true story describing the impact one goat has on a family in central Africa. The goat gives the children milk to drink, extra milk to sell. The money enables them to put a tin roof on their little house and to pay for Beatrice to go to school. She excelled and won a scholarship to a New England prep school. The goat, from the Heifer Project, was probably purchased by a church or Sunday School class. The book is too long to read in most worship services, but it would be easy to tell the story in your own words as you flipped through the pages. Ponder the power of the gift these Christians gave.
t To highlight the last phrase of the Lord’s Prayer and celebrate Christ’s power and glory, create a litany. Each entry reviews events or the theme of one of the seasons. The congregation responds, “Thine is the Kingdom, the power and the glory forever.” It could be an affirmation of faith following a sermon exploring Christ’s glory and power as seen in the seasons of the church year. Point out the format before inviting the congregation to join in reading it.
t Because this is a rather long passage that can lose children in all the words, invite worshipers to join in reading it as a play. The worship leader sets it up and serves as Narrator. A second reader stands front and center as the King. The right half and the left half of the congregation read the appropriate parts.
Narrator: When the Son of Man comes as King and all the angels with him, he will sit on his royal throne, and the people of all the nations will be gathered before him. Then he will divide them into two groups, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the righteous people on his right and the others on his left. Then the King will say to the people on his right,
King: Come, you that are blessed by my Father! Come and possess the kingdom which has been prepared for you ever since the creation of the world. I was hungry and you fed me, thirsty and you gave me a drink; I was a stranger and you received me in your homes, naked and you clothed me; I was sick and you took care of me, in prison and you visited me.
Narrator: The righteous will then answer him,
Right Side: When, Lord, did we ever see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you a drink? When did we ever see you a stranger and welcome you in our homes, or naked and clothe you? When did we ever see you sick or in prison, and visit you?
King: I tell you, whenever you did this for one of the least important of these members of my family, you did it for me!’
Narrator: Then he will say to those on his left,
King: Away from me, you that are under God’s curse! Away to the eternal fire which has been prepared for the Devil and his angels! I was hungry but you would not feed me, thirsty but you would not give me a drink; I was a stranger but you would not welcome me in your homes, naked but you would not clothe me; I was sick and in prison but you would not take care of me.
Narrator: Then they will answer him,
Left Side: When, Lord, did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and would not help you?
King: I tell you, whenever you refused to help one of these least important ones, you refused to help me.
Narrator: These, then, will be sent off to eternal punishment, but the righteous will go to eternal life.
The Good News Bible
|copyright Jan Richardson|
This image available at janricharsonimages.com
t Display photos of a grand variety of people from around the world. Select some that are inviting and others that are threatening. Ask worshipers “Can you see Christ here?” After discussing which pictures are harder for us to find Christ in, reread all or part of the king’s conversation with the sheep and the goats.
If you do this as a children’s time, guide the conversation carefully. It is easy to fall into children’s cute comments about culturally different people. Actually, this conversation is more powerful as part of the “real” sermon. Children realize that adults have trouble seeing Christ in some of the pictured people too and the adults can’t write the exercise off as something cute with the kids.
t Leo Tolstoy’s story about Martin the Shoemaker who takes care of 3 people in need who pass his window only to discover that he has met Jesus in each one of them is usually read at Christmas, but is a direct retelling of Jesus’ parable. So read it today.
t Carolyn Winfrey Gillette’s “Whatever You Do” offers a simple, straight-forward words based on this text and set to the tune of “Immortal Invisible God Only Wise”. Find the words at Carolyn's Hymns.