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Bible passage Luke 1:26-38; Matthew 1:18-21
Background These Christmas outlines are standalone, but they all contain common features: lighting another candle every Sunday in an Advent ring, using a wooden object to tell the Bible story, making a Christmas tree decoration, singing a song and adding extras verses. There is a recurring theme that the Christmas story is full of surprises.
Welcome each child by name. Talk about the ordinary things children and adults do on a weekday morning, such as getting dressed, eating breakfast or packing a school bag. What about the ordinary things they do in the evening such as brushing teeth, having a shower or a bath or putting on pyjamas?
Ask the children to act out a morning activity for the others to guess what it is. Then act out the ordinary things we do in the evening. Are there any activities they do in the morning and the evening?
You will need: a long-handled wooden brush; a model wooden bed, wooden bricks to build a bed or a photo of a wooden bed; a dustpan
Gather the children together and tell them this story:
Mary was a young girl who lived with her family 2,000 years ago. She was engaged to be married to a man called Joseph, but they weren’t married yet. Mary did a lot to help in the house. It was a hot and dusty country and they didn’t have vacuum cleaners. She swept the floor at least once a day with a wooden brush. Invite a few children to have a go at brushing the floor.
Stand and lean on the brush. One morning she was brushing the floor when she heard a rustle behind her. Turn around and encourage everyone to gasp. To her surprise, she saw a shimmering light surrounding a tall sort of person. Gasp again and drop the brush with a clatter. It was an angel!
Pick up the brush and stand to attention as though you are the angel. “Don’t be afraid,” the angel said. (They usually say that to people the first time they meet them.) “God is very pleased with you. You are going to have a baby. He’s going to be called Jesus. God is his father. He will change the world for ever.”
“It’s impossible,” Mary said, trembling. “I’m not married.” Invite the children to tremble in fear.
“God can do the impossible!” the angel said.
Mary stopped trembling and stayed very still, as though deep in thought. Invite children to be still. At last she took a deep breath. “OK,” she said, “if that’s what God wants. I’ll do what pleases him.”
Take a deep breath. And the angel disappeared.
Sit down to tell the next part of the story.
It was evening. Joseph, Mary’s fiancé was tired. He was a carpenter and worked with wood. His hands had splinters in them and he’d banged his finger with a hammer. Ouch! Ask the children if they have ever had splinter.
He climbed into his wooden bed. He had made it himself. Show the bed, the photo or build a bed out of bricks. That night he fell asleep very quickly and slept very deeply. He was snoring. Invite the children to snore. They could even lie down and imagine they are Joseph. Joseph dreamt that an angel had come to him. The angel had a message for Joseph.
The angel said: “You know that Mary is going to have a baby. God is the baby’s father and he has chosen you to be the boy’s foster father. You are to marry Mary and bring him up as your own son. You are to give him the name Jesus.”
Joseph woke up. He knew what he needed to do, so he married Mary. He was going to look after her and the baby when he was born.
Ask the children these questions, ensuring that everyone has the chance to contribute:
- When you get up in the morning you can never be sure what surprising things might happen before you get to school or nursery, or when you get there. Can anyone think of a surprise that has happened to them?
- Sometimes surprising things happen in the evening. Does anyone have any ideas?
- God often gives people surprises. In the Bible Jesus healed people and calmed a storm. Do you have any other suggestions? Chat about how God might surprise us today. We know for certain that he is with us all the time. Just as the angel said not to be afraid, God says that we don’t need to be worried or anxious.
You will need: card measuring 15cm x 10cm; tissue paper cut into 15cm x 10cm pieces; glue; glitter or tinsel; felt tips; thread or wool
In advance, cut a hole in the shape of a long isosceles triangle at the centre of the card, with a circle above the top for an ‘angelic head’. Punch a hole above the head in the frame of the card.
Cover the triangular hole in the card with tissue paper on one side. Decorate the frame on the other side with felt, glitter and small pieces of tinsel. Insert wool or thread so the children can hang the angel on a tree. As you work, chat about the story and what the children think God is doing here.
You will need: angels from ‘Creative response’; song words and advent ring instructions from youthandchildrenswork/links
Before the session, download the song words and prepare an advent wreath using the instructions on youthandchildrenswork/links. Sing the first two verses of the song, with each child holding their angel.
Surprise the children by lighting the first candle of the Advent ring. Explain why there is a ‘halo’ around the base. Remind them that Christians often light a candle when they pray as a sign that God is with us and hears our prayers. Jesus is the light of the world. Pray together:
“Thank you, God, that sometimes you surprise us, just as the angel surprised Mary and Joseph. Thank you that you are with us in the ordinary times and the surprising times. Amen.”
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