Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Son of David is Coming!

Advent 1C
Jeremiah 33:14-16
Props: A small bag containing pieces of yellow or tan yarn, cut in 2" segments--about 30 for each child
Peanut wrapped in gauze, as shown in photo

Good morning, everybody!  When you walked into the sanctuary this morning, you probably noticed a few changes.  This pretty wreath with purple and pink candles around the outside and a big white candle in the center has been set up.  Green garlands have been strung around the room, and there is a candle in each window that wasn't there last week.  (Of course, you point out the Advent preparations that have been made in your own sanctuary, or ask the children to find and point them out.)  We even have a special worship bulletin this morning.  (Briefly describe the bulletin, if you use Advent bulletins, and what the picture represents.)

Today is the First Sunday in Advent--a very special day in the life of the Church.  Advent is the four Sundays before Christmas.  The season is a time when we prepare our church, our homes, and our hearts to receive the Christ Child on his birthday, which is Christmas.  So we put up decorations to welcome Jesus.  We sing songs that speak of his coming into the world--songs like O Come, O Come, Emmanuel and Watchman, Tell Us of the Night, and O Little Town of Bethlehem.  (Mention songs familiar to your children.)  We cook special foods and sometimes buy or make gifts, all to prepare for the celebration that is Christmas.

One of the best ways to prepare ourselves and our world to receive Jesus is to be kind to others.  Kindness and generosity make the world a more friendly place; a warmer, more welcoming place for the baby Jesus.  I have something for each of you, to help you prepare for Jesus' arrival.  When you go home, I want you to find a small bowl, or a little box to use as a manger, or a bed for the baby Jesus.  Each time you do something kind for someone else, I want you to put one of these little pieces of yarn in the bed.  If you take cookies to your neighbor, or if you help your grandmother find her glasses, or if you put away the groceries with your dad, or if you let your brother go first in a game, or if you tell your teacher that you enjoyed the art lesson, or if you donate toys or coats or money to a charity organization, or if you go Christmas caroling--you get the idea.  Every time you do a kind or generous or loving act, put one piece of yarn, or straw, in the manger bed.  Then on Christmas morning, you will have a nice, soft bed for your baby Jesus.  (Hand out the yarn and the Jesus to each child.)

Prayer is another good way to prepare for Christmas.  Let's pray together now.

Loving and Generous God, You sent us your only Son, to show us how very much you love us and want us to be your children.  Help us during this season of Advent to prepare for Jesus' arrival at Christmas.  Help us to be kind, generous and loving in the coming weeks and all year long.  In Jesus' name we pray, Amen.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Christ the King Sunday
Revelation 1: 4-8
Credit for Photo

Good morning, everybody!  Today I want to talk with you about kings.  Kings and queens are important rulers, aren't they?  They are leaders who are responsible for all of the people in their country.  Good kings and queens do their very best to make sure all of their people, or subjects, are able to live healthy, happy lives, with enough food to eat, and a place to live, and work to do.  Throughout history there have been good kings whose people thrive and who love their leaders.

 One famous king in the Bible was King David.  As a boy, King David was a shepherd who took care of sheep for his father.  You may remember that King David made a name for himself by killing the huge, powerful enemy, Goliath.  Goliath was big and strong, and David was much smaller, but David had one thing Goliath didn't have...David had faith that God was on his side.  David was so sure of it, that he wasn't afraid of Goliath at all!  When none of the Hebrew soldiers would volunteer to fight Goliath, David stepped forward.  He took a rock and placed it in his sling shot--the same weapon he used to protect his sheep from bears and wolves.  David swung the stone around and around in the slingshot and then let it fly.  It hit Goliath just right, killed the mighty enemy, and the Hebrew people won the battle, all thanks to David, his slingshot and his faith in God.

David grew up to become the most beloved king Israel ever had.  He wasn't perfect, but he really tried his best to serve God and to serve the people so that everyone in the kingdom of Israel could live a good and faithful life.  I think that is the number one thing that makes a person a good leader--that he or she see themselves as a servant of the people.

The very best servant King ever is Jesus.  Today is Christ the King Sunday!  The Bible tells us that Jesus is the King of kings--the Ruler of all rulers.  There are many kings and queens and presidents and rulers in this world.  They may be Top Dogs in their own countries, but Jesus is the ruler of the Kingdom of God, and that means that he is more important and more powerful than all those other monarchs put together. Rulers who believe look to Jesus for guidance and strength as they rule their own countries.  And yet when Jesus lived here on earth, he fed the hungry.  He healed the sick.  He washed his disciples' feet.  He died on a cross.  He lived a life of service and cared deeply for his people.  He still does. 

We are subjects in the Kingdom of God.  We are God's people, and Jesus is our king.  For this, we can be very thankful, because we know that Jesus loves us and cares for us. 

Let's pray together,

Dear God, On this Christ the King Sunday, we remember that no matter where we live, we are members of Your Kingdom.  Help us to follow Jesus' example of serving others.  Amen.

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Legend of 5 Kernels: A Thanksgiving Story

Photo Credit
Sunday, November 18, 2012
Thanksgiving Sunday (U.S.A.)
I Thessalonians 5:16-18
Prop: A small bag with 5 kernels of popcorn or candy corn for each child

Good morning, girls and boys!  I am happy, and thankful, to see you all here this morning!  This-coming Thursday, people in The United States will be celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday.  The traditional way to celebrate Thanksgiving is by eating a huge meal.  It almost always includes turkey and gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, rolls, cranberry sauce, veggies and dessert--often pumpkin pie, and also many other specialties.  Those preparing the meal for their loved ones often spend days in the kitchen cooking up special foods, and everyone is as stuffed as the turkey when the meal is done.

But before digging into the feast, people all over the country stop and give thanks for the many, many blessings God has given them in the past year, just like the Pilgrims did.

We all know the story of the first Thanksgiving.  The first year in their new home was terribly difficult for the Pilgrims.  They were not prepared for the harsh weather and their supplies did not last through the winter.  People in their little group starved to death in that first year.  If it weren't for the help they received from the Native Americans, they would have all died.  So in thanks to God for their first harvest, and their new friends, the Pilgrims invited the Native Americans to dinner, and together they shared a feast. 

The second winter, however, was also very difficult.  Again, the Pilgrims did not have enough food.  In fact, there were times when each member of the colony were only allowed 5 kernels of corn to eat for an entire day.  Yet the people had faith that God would take care of them, no matter what, and they pulled through.  Nobody died that second winter.  And the harvest was huge!  There was so much corn that the Pilgrims were able to help the Native Americans.

They held a second Thanksgiving feast, again inviting their new friends to come.  Massasoit, the chief, came with his wife, several other chiefs, 120 braves and meat they had hunted.  All sat down to a feast of 12 venison, 6 goats, 50 hogs and pigs, numerous turkeys, vegetables, grapes, nuts, plums, puddings and pies. But, to remind everyone of the hard times they had endured and all they had to be thankful for, the Pilgrims and their guests sat down to an empty plate.  Then each person was given 5 kernels of corn.  The 5 kernels of corn reminded the Pilgrims of all they had suffered the previous winter, and of how much they had to be thankful for that second Thanksgiving day. 

I'm going to give each of you a little bag with 5 kernels of corn in it.  Save it until Thursday.  And then before your Thanksgiving meal, think of 5 things for which you are thankful.  Maybe you would like to go around the table and put 5 kernels of corn on each person's plate, and everyone at your Thanksgiving feast could share their 5 thanksgivings before the meal.  Or you could use the corn to help you say your good-night prayers.  Whatever you decide, I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving!  And I want you to know that one of the things for which I am very thankful is you.

Let us offer our thanks to God now.

Good and Gracious God, There is so much for which to thank you!  I'm sure we can all think of many more than 5 things.  We know that all of the people and things that keep us safe and warm and happy come from you.  All of the people we love and who love us.  All of the beauty in the world.  For our many blessings, Lord, we give you thanks and praise.  Amen.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Spirit of Giving

Photo Source
The Spirit of Giving
Sunday, November 11, 2012
Mark 12:38-44
Prop: A Piggy Bank (Optional)

Good morning, everyone!  I brought something with me to show you this morning.  It's a piggy bank!  Not all banks are shaped like pigs, of course.  Banks come in all kinds of shapes, but most of them do have a slot in the top.  Do any of you have a bank at home, with a slot in the top to put the money in?  If you do, raise your hand. 

This morning we're going to talk about money.  My mother always said it isn't polite to talk about money, but Jesus actually talked about it quite a bit.  This story is about one of those times.

Jesus was in the Temple in Jerusalem.  The Temple was the biggest, fanciest sanctuary where the Hebrew people worshipped.  For the Jews, it was the holiest place on earth.

On the day of our story, Jesus had been teaching large crowds of people.  When he was finished, Jesus and the disciples rested in the Temple.  They sat in what was called the Treasury.  From there, Jesus could see the people putting their offerings in the money box.  They didn't pass offering plates through the crowd like we do today.  At the Temple, folks went to the Treasury and put their money in the money box whenever they felt like it.

So, Jesus watched people come and go, and make their offerings to God in the Treasury.  He saw many rich people come along and put in large amounts of money.  Then he saw a widow walk quietly up to the Treasury box.  She slipped two small coins into the box, and quickly walked away.  The coins together were worth about one penny.  And yet, do you know what Jesus told his disciples?  He said to them, "This poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury."

Jesus went on to explain that all the other people he saw had given what they had left over.  But the poor widow had given all that she had.

Even if we don't have a lot, we all have something we can share with those who have less than we do.  And even though giving to others makes our piggy banks lighter, it makes us, and God, very happy.

Let's Pray,

Kind and Generous God, Help us to be generous, too.  Help us to share the good gifts you have given us with others so that all may know of your love and care.  In Jesus' name, Amen.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

For All the Saints

By M. Dibdon Spooner
Sunday, November 4, 2012

All Saints Sunday

Mark 12:28-34

Good morning, boys and girls!  Today I want to tell you about someone very special.  Her name is Margaret.  Margaret was born nearly one thousand years ago, in the  year 1045.  She was raised as a member of the Hungarian court, like a princess, because her family was related to the king.  When she was 12 years old, she was sent to England to get more education.  Then the Normans conquered and took over England.  Margaret, her mother and her brother tried to escape in a ship and return to Hungary.  Their ship was blown off course, and landed instead in Scotland--a rather wild country in the opposite direction of where they were trying to go.
Margaret and her family were welcomed by Scottish King Malcolm III.  King Malcolm fell in love with the beautiful and gentle Margaret.  They were married in 1070, when Margaret was 25 years old.

Like I said, Scotland was a rather wild place at this time.  King Malcolm was a good man, but he was more of a soldier than a gentleman.  Margaret helped him to become a gracious leader.  Together they cared about the poor and did all they could to help them.  King Malcolm and Queen Margaret had 8 children, and all of them grew to love and care for the poor as their parents had.Margaret was a prayerful person. 

She gathered women together to study the Scriptures and sew decorations for the church.  She was always surrounded by beggars, and gave them food, money and clothes.  She set up hospitals and homes for people in need.  During the special seasons of Advent and Lent, she and her husband would wash the feet of people in need and give them money on their way home from church.  Margaret fed children who had no parents.  She brought a love of art and education to her people, and the people loved her in return.  Margaret's children were wonderful leaders who followed their parents' example, and brought Scotland years of peace and prosperity.

Margaret was a kind and generous leader, and someone who lived her faith each and every day by showing God's love to everyone. In the year 1250, the Catholic Church decided that Margaret should be declared a saint, and she became the special saint of Scotland.

The Apostle Paul was a follower of Jesus almost two thousand years ago.  Paul wrote some of the Bible, and he is sometimes called St. Paul. Paul was an important man in helping to build and grow the church when Christianity was a brand, new religion.  Paul wrote that all Christian believers are saints. Not only people whose faith and good works made them famous and brought special recognition, like Margaret of Scotland, but also people like you and me and everyone sitting in this church.  All of us who believe in God and love Jesus and want to serve Him are saints. I recently read this about saints:

"Saints are big dreamers. They believe that with God on their side, no one and nothing can stop them. Saints are go-getters. They don’t wait for someone else to do good first; they jump right in. Saints are love-bringers. They try to see Christ in every person and every situation. Saints tell us what matters most in life is not what we earn or own, not the job we have or the people we know. What really matters is how much we love God, others, and ourselves, and how well we show that love in all we do."  (Loyola Press Website)

Let's pray together,
Dear God, we thank you for our brothers and sisters in Christ who teach us by example what it means to be a faithful disciple.  We thank-you for those who went before us, like Margaret of Scotland, and for their stories which help us learn how to follow Jesus, and for those we meet every day who are kind and generous and loving.  Help us, too, Lord, to show your love in all we do and say.  Amen.

In preparing this story, I came across the Loyola Press website, which has wonderful Saints stories written for children.  I highly recommend it!