Monday, December 3, 2018

Happy New Year!

A Story for the First Sunday in Advent
Isaiah 9: 2-7
A party blower

Begin by blowing loud and long on the party blower, then shout, " HAPPY NEW YEAR!!"  The children will inevitably look confused and ask what you're talking about.  Play with this a little while, then go on with the story.

So, today isn't New Year's?  When do we usually celebrate the new year?  January 1, that's right.  But did you know there are people in different parts of the world who celebrate the new year at various times?  Chinese New Year begins on February 5, 2019, and the party goes on until February 19th!  Jewish New Year is called Rosh Hashanah, and was celebrated last September 9-11.

The Christian Church divides the year up into seasons.  The Christian year begins with the season of Advent, which starts with the 4th Sunday before Christmas.  Advent is a season of preparation as we get ready for Jesus' coming into the world.  In fact, Advent means "coming" or "arrival."  Today is the First Sunday in Advent, so this is the first day of the Christian year.  So again, I say (toot party blower), "Happy New Year!"

Each season of the church year is assigned its own special color.  The color for Advent is purple (or blue--say whichever your church uses), a color associated with kings and royalty.  We light special candles during Advent to help us mark the time leading up to Jesus' birth at Christmas.  We also think about our lives and what we might do to become more faithful followers of Christ.  So, even as we get ready for Christmas by decorating our homes, baking special treats and buying gifts, the most important thing we need to do is to ready our hearts for the amazing gift of God's love at Christmas.  Let's start that preparation by praying together now.

You may wish to offer this as an echo prayer, inviting the children to repeat after you.
Loving God,
We thank you for sending Jesus into our world
to show us just how much you love us.
May we start this new Christian year
by seeking to share the love and kindness of Jesus
each and every day.

Before you go, I have something for each of you.  (Pass out a party blower to each child.)  Now on the count of 3, blow your horn and shout "Happy New Year!" together, ok?  The congregation is welcome to join in the shouting.  One, two, three...(toot horn)...Happy New Year!

Monday, November 26, 2018

Advent 2018

Do you remember the paper chains we used to make as kids?  Well, they are not simply for decoration any more.  They also, when printed with suggested activities and thought-provoking questions, make effective and meaningful Advent calendars.  We are making these in Sunday school this week, the First Sunday in Advent.  They would also be great for an Advent workshop or family night.  These are easy and fun to make.  I've done the hard part--coming up with an idea for each day!

Here are the sheets for you to print.  If your church has special events during the month, you may want to include these in the Advent chain.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Keep On Learning

Ephesians 3:14-19

Any date can be used in this message.  The needed statistics and facts may be found by searching your date on  

Good morning, boys and girls!  Today is August 5.  Some pretty important things happened in different years on August 5.  Let me share with you just a few of them:

  • In 1858, the first transatlantic telegraph cable was completed by Mr. Cyrus W. Field
  • In 1861, the U.S. levies its first Income Tax
  • On August 5, 1884 the cornerstone for the Statue of Liberty was laid
  • In 1921, baseball was first broadcast on the radio (Pirates-8; Phillies-0)
  • In 1057 American Bandstand first aired on network TV
  • In 1969 the Mariner 7 spacecraft flies past Mars, and finally,
  • I was born on August 5!
I'm not going to tell you in which year I was born, but I can tell you that I am 22,645 days old.  I have been alive for 543,480 hours, or 32,608,800 minutes.  I have spent 21 years of my life sleeping.

All this is to say that I have been around for quite a long time.  

Now, guess what I'm doing at the end of this month.  I'm going to band camp!  At band camp, I will sleep in a bunk bed, eat in a dining hall, but most important, I will learn how to play my flute better.  And next month, I am going to go to a Leadership Institute to learn how to become a better pastor, and hopefully pick up some ideas that will help us all to grow into a better church as well.

I'm sure there are some days that you are kind of tired of school.  But you know what?  There is so much to know in this world that we need to keep open to learning our entire lives--whether we go to classes and seminars or read books or engage in interesting conversations with other people, God wants us to keep on learning even when we are finished with school.  This is also true with studying the Bible.  Even if you read the entire book from cover-to-cover, you will discover new things about God and your relationship with God each time you look at a passage.

Prayer:  All-knowing God, may we always be curious and eager to learn about your world and our place in it, about you and your love for us, about how we might serve you better each day.  Amen.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

May 22, 2016

Choir Recognition Sunday

Psalm 100 and Psalm 150

Props: Special Musical Instruments employed for use on this celebrative Sunday (trumpets, trombones and handbells, in our church's case)

Explanation: Wicomico Presbyterian Church in Salisbury, Maryland, celebrated Choir Sunday today, complete with a handbell choir introit, and anthems and hymns accompanied by a brass quartet along with the standard pipe organ.  Before the service, I explained the children's sermon to the brass musicians and secured their assistance, as described below.

Good morning, girls and boys!  Today we are celebrating Choir Sunday in our church! 

Music has always been an important way for the people of God to offer praise to God.  The Bible includes a hymnbook, did you know that?  It is called the Book of Psalms.  There are no notes in this hymnbook, but all of these words are lyrics to ancient songs.  Two of my favorites are Psalm 100 and Psalm 150.  In Psalm 100, we read:

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth...
....Come into God's presence with singing!

Psalm 150 says:

Praise the Lord! 
Praise God in the sanctuary!...

...Praise him with trumpet sound;
    praise him with lute and harp!
Praise him with tambourine and dance;
    praise him with strings and pipe!
Praise him with clanging cymbals;
    praise him with loud clashing cymbals!

We don't have any loud, clashing cymbals this morning, but we do have some special instruments to help us praise the Lord on this special day.  We have trumpets.  Let's listen to what the trumpet sounds like.  (Trumpeter plays, maybe a little jazz riff.)  And now let's hear what the trombone sounds like.  (Trombone plays.)  I wonder how they sound when they all play together.  (Horns.)  Those instruments sure do sound like they are praising God, don't they!

We all have an instrument that we can use to praise God.  We carry it with us all the time.  We can sound it any time we want--day or night, inside or outside, loud or soft.  This instrument is your voice!  Sometime we use our voices to sing, and sometimes we praise God with our plain speech.  Let's use our voices to praise God together now.  I'm going to say "God is good," and you answer with "All the time."  Are you ready?

God is good!
All the time!
God is good!
All the time!
God is good!
All the time!

Monday, March 30, 2015

Holy Week Greetings

As we follow Jesus to the cross this week, we do so with hope in our hearts, because we know the end of the story:

Wishing you and your congregation a blessed Holy Week, and a joyous Easter.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Easter Sunday

Easter Sunday, March 31, 2013
Photo Credit
Easter Miracles
Luke 24:1-12
Props: The Photos Included in this Story

Happy Easter, everyone! 

This morning I want to tell you a special story.  This story started 2,000 years ago in the country of Israel, at a place called Masada.  Masada was a fortress built by King Herod as a place he could go to be safe in case Israel was ever invaded.  Food was kept there in big store rooms just in case the kind needed to make a quick get-away.

One of the foods that people enjoyed in Israel at that time were dates.  People in Israel and around the world still enjoy eating dates today.  But there is one type of date palm tree that used to grow during Herod's time that is now extinct.  There are no more of these particular trees left in the world--that is, until 8 years ago. 

In the 1960's, archeologists were digging up artifacts at Masada.  Among the interesting, ancient things they found were several seeds from this extinct date palm tree.  I have a picture of them here to show you.  They are about an inch long, and skinny.  For a long time, the seeds were catalogued and filed away.  Then on January 29, 2005, on the Jewish New Year of Trees, they decided to plant one of the seeds.  The scientists took extra care and soaked the seed, and prepared an especially nutritious soil mix to use.  They didn't know if a 2,000-year-old seed would grow or not!  So they crossed their fingers, said a little prayer, and planted the ancient seed.  And guess what...(show picture of plant)
Photo Credit
IT SPROUTED, AND IT GREW!!  This picture was taken a few years ago.  Today the Phoenix Date Palm is 8 feet tall!  That is amazing, isn't it?

2,000 years ago, in the country of Israel, in a place outside of Jerusalem, some of Jesus' friends went to the tomb where he was buried.  They brought spices and things they needed to prepare his body for a proper burial.  When they got to the tomb, which was like a cave, the big stone the covered the opening was rolled away.  They stepped inside, and Jesus was gone.  Two men were there in brilliant, white clothes.  They said to the women, "Why are you looking among the dead for one who is alive?  He is not here!  He is risen!!"

Even more amazing than a 2,000-year-old seed making roots, sprouting and growing into a tall, tall tree, is the resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ.  The resurrection is why we are here today on Easter rejoice, to worship, and to say together,

Christ is Risen!  And you say..."He is Risen Indeed!"
Christ is Risen!  He is Risen Indeed!
Christ is Risen!  He is Risen Indeed!!


Thursday, March 21, 2013

Palm Sunday 2013

I Love a Parade
Palm Sunday 2013
I Love a Parade
Sunday, March 24, 2013
Luke 19:28-40

Who knows what Albert Einstein, Amelia Earhart, the New York Yankees, Nelson Mandela and Pope John Paul II all have in common?  They were all honorees at Ticker Tape Parades

Ticker Tape Parades have been given to honor special people in New York City since the 1880's.  Here's a picture of John Kennedy and his wife, Jackie, when he was running for president.  Ticker tape was a long strip of paper used in the stock market.  People used to throw ticker tape and other confetti from the windows of the tall buildings in New York City as the parade passed by.  You can see the long streamers of paper and smaller confetti in this picture.

The day Jesus entered into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey was kind of like a ticker-tape parade, only instead of throwing paper, the people who cheered Jesus' arrival in the city put palm branches on the ground in front of  him.  Some took off their coats and spread them on the ground as well. The crowd welcomed Jesus with shouts of "Hosanna!  Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!  Hosanna in the highest!!"  They knew Jesus was special, and they were very happy to see him.

Later in the week, things did not go so well for Jesus.  He was arrested, and the very people who welcomed him with palm branches and shouts of joy, welcomed his execution with shouts of "Crucify him!" a few, short days later.  How people can change their minds so fast is hard for us to understand.  But it was all part of God's plan and Jesus' job as our Savior.

There's more to the story--the best part of all!  But that we will save until next week.  I'll give you a hint: it's a story about nothing.

Let's pray.

Dear God, We don't always understand the world around us or the people in it.  We are glad to have you on our side.  In Jesus' name, Amen.

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