1 Samuel 1:4-20
> For a child-friendly telling of this story read “A Baby for Hannah” in The Children’s Bible in 365 Stories, by Mary Batchelor. In spite of its title, the story is more focused on her prayer and ends with Hannah feeling “peaceful and almost happy. She had told God her trouble. Now she would wait for his answer.” (Can be read aloud in 4 minutes)
> Ask a woman of child bearing years to read this passage to the whole congregation.
I Samuel 2:1-10
> Hannah’s prayer or song should be read by one or more women. If the group includes women and girls of all ages, it feels like a choir of happy women praising God. The script below lists 15 readers, but could be read by as few as 3 or4 readers with each reading one part in turn. Give each reader a script with her part/s highlighted.
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All: The Lord has filled my heart with joy;
how happy I am because of what he has done!
Reader 1: I laugh at my enemies;
how joyful I am because God has helped me!
Reader 2: No one is holy like the Lord;
there is none like him,
no protector like our God.
Reader 3: Stop your loud boasting;
silence your proud words.
For the Lord is a God who knows,
and he judges all that people do.
Reader 4: The bows of strong soldiers are broken,
but the weak grow strong.
Reader 5: The people who once were well fed
now hire themselves out to get food,
but the hungry are hungry no more.
Reader 6: The childless wife has borne seven children,
but the mother of many is left with none.
Reader 7: The Lord kills and restores to life;
he sends people to the world of the dead
and brings them back again.
Reader 8: The Lord makes some poor and others rich;
he humbles some and makes others great.
Reader 9: The Lord lifts the poor from the dust
and raises the needy from their misery.
Reader 10: The Lord makes them companions of princes
and puts them in places of honor.
Reader 11: The foundations of the earth belong to the Lord;
on them he has built the world.
Reader 12: The Lord protects the lives of his faithful people,
but the wicked disappear in darkness;
Reader 13: People do not triumph by their own strength.
Reader 14: The Lord’s enemies will be destroyed;
he will thunder against them from heaven.
Reader 15: The Lord will judge the whole world;
he will give power to his king,
he will make his chosen king victorious.
Based on the TEV
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|This one is about things that make be feel fearful.|
> Hannah prayed when she was really UNhappy. She also prayed when she was really, really happy. In her prayers she tells God exactly how she feels. Together make a list of feeling words. Suggest that each child or each worshiper select one that fits them today, then draw or write a prayer to share that feeling with God. Collect prayers in prayer baskets or the offering plates and place them on the Table at the front.
> Leaf through a copy of Happy, by Mies Van Hout. Each page of the book contains one emotion (happy, angry, sad, confused, etc.) illustrated by a fish who displays that emotion. The colors are vivid and the fish clearly emotional. Select two or three emotions to share. Talk about what the picture tells us about how the fish is feeling. Imagine why a fish might feel this way. Identify times we feel that way. Finally, together come up with some prayers we could pray when we feel each of these emotions. The point is that like Hannah we can talk to God about how we feel.
Help! and Thank You!
> To connect Hannah’s prayers to the prayer requests shared in your worship and/or in “the long prayer,” take time to talk about the latter just before they come in your worship. (This could be a children’s time or a conversation addressed to the whole congregation.) Note that Hannah prayed two of the most common prayers – “help!” and “thank you!” Point out several of each that you will include in the church’s prayers this day and encourage young listeners to listen for others.
> For the Beauty of the Earth is one hymn with such simple concrete words that it can be sung by young readers with little introduction, except maybe pointing this fact out and encouraging your readers to give this song a try. In many ways it parallels Hannah’s happy prayer-song.
If I were going to explore apocalyptic themes with children, I’d use the gospel rather than this. But, if you do read this text, for the sake of the children read from The Good News Bible (TEV).
The angel wearing linen clothes said, “At that time the great angel Michael, who guards your people, will appear. Then there will be a time of troubles, the worst since nations first came into existence. When that time comes, all the people of your nation whose names are written in God’s book will be saved. Many of those who have already died will live again: some will enjoy eternal life, and some will suffer eternal disgrace. The wise leaders will shine with all the brightness of the sky. And those who have taught many people to do what is right will shine like the stars forever.”
The NRSV translation is full of biblical images that keep the uninitiated from feeling the joy in the psalm. The TEV translation omits those images and provides a great prayer of praise. Children will not hear every line, but will hear thankful lines here and there.
Hebrews 10: 11-14, (15-18), 19-25
> The key phrase for children is “he sat down at the right hand of God.” It is the answer to the question “where is Jesus now?” Jesus is with God and is Lord! Add the word Lord! in big letters in a prominent place on your Hebrews word poster. Then explore verses 19 -25 which answer the question “what shall we do for Lord Jesus?”
> Before reciting/reading it together point to “(he) sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty” in the traditional version of the Apostles’ Creed. Laugh about the idea of Jesus sitting on God’s hand then rephrase it to mean that Jesus sat next to God or is like God’s right hand man. The Ecumenical version of the creed puts it “he is seated at the right hand of the Father” and makes more immediate sense to children.
> Because Jesus is Lord we can be bold and courageous. Often children hear calls at church to be kind and nice and gentle. This call to be bold and courageous is an attractive change of pace. This connects to the gospel call to face dangerous or difficult times bravely knowing that God is in charge.
> Point out to older children that all the pronouns here are plural. We are not asked to be bold and courageous for Lord Jesus on our own. That would be really hard. But, we can do it together. Talk about scary things we can do together – like go on a mission trip with friends at church, work at a soup kitchen the first time with our whole family, or go on a long hunger hike with our church school class. Name and celebrate brave things your congregation has done together. Show pictures and tell stories.
> Most often when we “provoke each other,” it is to do things we really ought not to do or to do things that make others angry. The writer of this letter wants us to “provoke each other to good deeds.” Read this phrase. Talk about how we usually provoke each other. Then describe how we can provoke siblings and friends and even people we don’t particularly like to do good things. Describe children bravely welcoming new children in school, reaching out to the outcasts on the bus, even standing up to people who are bullying other kids. Include in your stories the possibility of encouraging other children to do likewise. Two examples,
After a police dog was killed on duty, an 11 year old wanted to buy a $1,200 bullet proof vest for the dog that took his place. She “provoked others” to help her do this by putting collection jars in the local grocery stores and getting a story about her effort in the local paper.
To earn their Eagle Scout Award boy scouts must do a community service project that requires that they organize others to help them do the project. In the process they learn how to “provoke others” to join them in good work that benefits the community.
> Before reading these verses with children, show them a pictures of your country’s national buildings. Note with pride how big and impressive they look and how proud people feel when they see them. Point out that Jesus and his disciples felt the same way when they saw the Temple in Jerusalem. Then read what Jesus said about that Temple and about God.
> Jesus wanted his disciples to think bigger than their own Temple in their own city. To encourage children to think bigger today display pictures of the universe and talk about how big it is, how small we are and how much bigger the Creator of the universe and us is.
- Go to The Earth from Space for a public domain picture of the earth and moon from space.
- Go to Space Telescope Images for beautiful pictures of the universe taken from the Hubble space telescope. (They come with several different ways to download them at no cost.)
- Show the segment of the IMAX “Hubble” DVD that takes us on a star trip past Orion’s belt and into deep space. The trip starts about 9 minutes into the show and lasts 3 minutes. It is awesome! (Be sure to get the 2D rather than the 3D version which requires special glasses for all viewers!)
> Another way to place ourselves in an order that is much larger than us is to read all or parts of Lifetimes: the Beautiful Way to Explain Death to Children, by Bryan Mellonie and Robert Ingpen. The author insists that all living things have a beginning, a lifetime and an ending. He describes and compares this pattern in the lives of trees, flowers, rabbits, birds, fish, and people. The unstated but clear message is that we all will die, but that dying is part of the plan. We do not have to be afraid when anything or anyone ends. Endings are part of God’s plan.
It takes 5 minutes to read the whole book aloud, but it would be possible to omit a few of the lifetimes descriptions to shorten it a bit.
> Children overhear and “run with” adult talk about potential dates for the end of the world. Often older elementary students engage in wild speculation among themselves. This is a chance to directly tell children that such predictions are always false. Go to List of Dates Predicted for Apocalyptic Events for a very detailed list of historic predictions. Select one or two famous ones to share and laugh at with the children. Then remind them that only God knows when the world will end and God is keeping that as a surprise. Jesus told us so.
> Go to Harry Potter, the Hunger Games and Biblical Apocalyptic for general ideas about exploring apocalyptic messages with children. A big new Stars Wars movie comes out in mid-December this year. It will be a big deal with children and offers chances to compare it to apocalyptic literature. The trailer that is on line in October begins, “The force is strong in my family. My father has it. I have it. My sister has it. You have that power too.” You may want to save this connection for the apocalyptic passages in early Advent – or start with it now.
> Mark’s apocalyptic talk has links to two phrases in the Lord’s Prayer. Explore one of them before the Prayer is voiced in worship today.
“Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (traditional) or “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as in heaven” (ecumenical) are wishes that God will take control of the future on the earth. To explore this gather a list of situations in which God’s will needs to be done. After each one as a group say the prayer line as an eyes-open conversation with God and each other. For example,
When everyone is tired and crabby and bickering…
When countries are going to war…
When we are trying to make a hard decision…
“Thine is the kingdom, and the power and the glory forever”(traditional) or “for the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours” (ecumenical) remind us that no matter what is going wrong at the moment God still has the final word. To explore this reality collect a list of situations in which it seems like all is lost. After identifying each one the whole group says the prayer line as a reminder that God is still in control. For example,
Even when the mean kids are making my life miserable on the bus…
Even when I feel stupid and a hopeless mess…
Even when I don’t have a single friend…
Even when it looks like the whole world is going crazy…
> Before singing Hymn of Promise ask worshipers to open their hymnbooks while you walk through verses 1 and 3 with the congregation. Verse 1 is filled with happy surprises of seeds, cocoons, and seasons. Verse 3 points to surprises from God in harder times, i.e. “in our end is our beginning…, in our doubt there is believing…, in our death a resurrection.” Both verses share the same final line “unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.” Invite worshipers to sing the song together trusting God in good times and hard times because God is in control all the way.
> Introduce the youngest children to apocalyptic by reading and pondering the childhood fears depicted on some of the pages of Some Things Are Scary, by Florence Parry Heide. After pondering several of the scary things, admit that we all face scary things. Point out that when Jesus was born everyone was scared – scared of the Roman soldiers, scared of the tax-collectors, scared they wouldn’t have enough to eat. When Jesus was born and grew up he promised people that even in the scary times, God was with them and that God’s love would win in the end. They could be brave about the Romans and we can be brave about all the things that scare us. Below are some of my favorites from the book. I almost didn’t list them because you really need the wonderful art to bring them to life.
Being on a swing when someone is pushing you too high is scary.
Finding out your best friend has a best friend who isn’t you is scary.
Having your best friend move away is scary.
Thinking about a big bird with big teeth who might swoop down and carry you away is scary.
NOTE: You may want to think about when to use this book. It could also be used to introduce some of the apocalyptic texts during Advent.