Thursday, September 9, 2010

Year A - Third Sunday in Advent (December 12, 2010)

Isaiah 35:1-10
The safe, glorious road back to Zion

This song is about the promised return of the people from Exile, but is filled with snippets that have become part of the Advent imagery related to waiting for the Lord. Choose just one of these images to explore with children.
  • Verses 3-4 call on listeners to be strong and not be afraid no matter how bad things look at the moment because God will come to their rescue. Explain briefly that the listeners were prisoners of war in a foreign country. Things were lousy. Isaiah urged them to be strong because God will always have the last word and it will be good. Point out to the children that though we are not prisoners of war, we face lots of really hard situations and must deal with people who are really rough. Isaiah’s promise is for us. No matter how hard things seem at the moment, we know that God will eventually win and peace will come. Knowing that, we can be strong and patient.
  • Verses 5-6 describe the healing of the lame and sick. A similar list appears in the gospel account of Jesus answer to John the Baptist’s question about whether Jesus is the Messiah. Because of this context, the gospel list is easier to explore with children.

Psalm 146:5-10
Praise THE LORD for great deeds

This is a psalm of praise. The psalmist lists some of the wonderful things God does. The NRSV translation begins each item in the list with “THE LORD.” Before reading this version of the psalm, alert worshippers to listen for the things that THE LORD does. As you read, emphasize THE LORD vocally and even with a raised finger each time you read it.

James 5:7-10
Be patient

The dictionary definition of patient is “able to endure waiting, delay, or provocation without becoming annoyed or upset”. After reading the text, first ask children for their definitions of patient, then bring out the dictionary to look it up. See what it says that is just like what you already said and what it adds.

Or, bring the big Bible down to the steps to read these verses. You might even get one of the children to read a sentence or two. Then talk through a series of examples of patience moving from the hard enough waiting for what is delayed without getting annoyed or upset to the even harder enduring provocation (difficulties) without becoming annoyed or upset.
  • Note that the manger in the crèche is still empty. It’s been up there two whole weeks and there are still two weeks to go until Christmas. That feels like forever. But Jesus says be patient. Be kind and good to each other while you wait.
  • Jesus talks about the farmer who plants seeds and has to wait months for them to grow. That’s patience. But, how many of you would like to be tall enough to really real slam dunk a basketball? No matter how hard you practice, it is going to be years before you are tall enough to it! Adults (people already tall enough to slam dunk) say it’ll come before you know it. But, it is going to be YEARS! You’ve got to be patient. You’ve got to keep working on your basketball skills and waiting to grow.
  • And then there are the things that look like they will never change. Your sister never cleans up her side of the room you share. Her stuff is all over everything. Even when your side is neat and pretty, her side makes the whole room look like a pig pen. She might get neater as she grows up, but she might not. Still, she’s your sister and you do have to share a room. You have to be patient with each other just the way you are.
There have got to be some good children’s fables and stories about patience that could be read during children’s time or used to illustrate a point in the “real” sermon. Share ones you know of in Comments.

Conversation with children about patience sets you up to discuss the need for patience among adults – a plenty big subject in this year’s provoking clashes between almost everyone about almost everything. Patience may be the most essential Advent discipline for 2010.

Light the third candle of the Advent Wreath with a prayer for patience.

Matthew 11:2-11

John asks, “are you really the one we’re waiting for, are you really God With Us?” Jesus replies, “Look at what I’m doing. Doesn’t that look like God in action?” The challenge for the next two weeks is to celebrate Jesus' birthday by doing the things he did, i.e. care for those who need our assistance.

Talk with the children about birthday parties that feature things the birthday girl or boy really likes to do – skating, swimming,… Point out that since Christmas is Jesus’ birthday we should be doing the things he likes to do. Read verses 2-6 paraphrasing as you go. Then, point out that what we should be doing is to take care of people who need it. We may not be able to cure someone by touching them like Jesus did, but there is plenty we can do to help out. Describe a couple of local possibilities like buying a gift for a child on an angel tree, buying an animal through Heifer project,… Make your suggested projects ones that are easy for a family to do, then challenge the children and their families to do at least one thing Jesus likes to do between now and Christmas to celebrate his birth.

After exploring the meaning of the name Emanuel, sing “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” Check the First Sunday of Advent for additional notes about this hymn.

Light the third candle of the Advent wreath for Immanuel to remind ourselves that God was with us in Jesus and is with us every day.

Luke 1:46b-55 (Alternate Reading)
The Magnificat

If you read the Magnificat in today’s worship, tell the story of the annunciation before it is read. Since the Biblical version includes language about Mary being a virgin, read the story from a Bible story book or tell it in your own words. (The key is to replace, “but I am still a virgin” with “but I am not yet married.”) Then ask a well prepared teenage girl to read Mary’s song with appropriate power and possibly to move the crèche Mary figure from its current position to its place by the manger. This could be done with the children in their pews. Or, the children could be invited to the front to hear the story from you, listen to the teenager reading from wherever scripture is usually read, then return to their seats. The teen’s reading should clearly be the gospel reading of the day and not just something done for the children.

Light the third candle of the Advent Wreath for brave Mary ready to do what God asked.

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