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It’s time for the most coveted title in the UK singles chart to be announced. Who will be the Christmas number one? The reality is, the source of our festive celebrations rarely gets a look in at this time of year. Or does he? This session explores what it means to acknowledge and celebrate Immanuel, God with us.
Before the session you’ll need to collect together a selection of recent Christmas number one singles and print out the lyrics.
Gather the children or young people together and begin the session by asking them who they think will win the number-one single spot this year. You could discuss (or perhaps debate) the most likely title grabbers, as well as asking your group if they can remember any of the winners from the last few years. You could even challenge them to a sing-off to see how many they can remember.
Explain to the group that while these songs sometimes feature jingle bells and fluffy coats, the lyrics often seem to have little to do with the many different ways Christmas is celebrated, let alone acknowledging the birth of Jesus! But is that really the case? What if we look a little more closely?
Provide a Bible and ask someone to read Matthew 1:22-23. Explain that this verse reminds us of the words in Isaiah when the prophet told of the time when Jesus would come to his people. Check that the group understands the meaning of the name ‘Immanuel’ and explain that this name reminds us of God’s presence in every circumstance and aspect of our lives.
Many of the songwriters will not have deliberately pointed to Jesus, but he is present in the world today, even when people don’t recognise him. Human beings, made in the image of God, cannot help but point to him in some way through the creative gifts he has given to us.
Allow time for the young people to play a selection of recent number ones and take a look at the lyrics. As they do so, challenge them to go looking for the evidence of Immanuel, God with us. Ask the group to consider the following questions:
- Do these lyrics refute the existence of God?
- Do they somehow point to Immanuel?
- What glimpses do you see of humans created in the image of God?
- How might Jesus respond to the questions being asked of, or about, him in this song?
Remind the group that not all songs speak to us in this way, and we shouldn’t try to find links that are so tenuous they are barely there. Yet there are ways God can speak to us even through songs that were not intentionally written about him.
As you draw the session to a close, challenge your young people to spend some time in the week ahead looking for signs of Immanuel, God with us, even in the most unlikely of places.
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