Christmas Celebration

Christmas Celebration Bible base: Luke 2:22–35 Aim: To see the hope of Jesus at Christmas through the eyes of an elderly person. Note to leaders Altho...
Author: Allan Underwood
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Christmas Celebration Bible base: Luke 2:22–35 Aim: To see the hope of Jesus at Christmas through the eyes of an elderly person. Note to leaders Although the passage about Jesus being brought to Jerusalem isn’t one we would directly think of at Christmas, it is still relevant as the Gospel writer examines the importance of Jesus’ birth. Simeon is old and has waited many years for the coming Christ, and at last he has arrived. Simeon, like the shepherds, is thrilled that the prophecy of Jesus has been fulfilled. This gives us a mirror which we can hold up to our modern Christmas where so much becomes hidden by trappings and gifts we forget the real meaning. But at the same time the sense of waiting and anticipation that children feel at Christmas becomes an important link for the sense of waiting and anticipation like Simeon and others would have felt. During this session we have suggested interviewing an elderly person. Really, the older the better! Asking them the same questions as the children will help the children to relate to them, and in turn having related to an older person, they will be able to see how Simeon, being old, can yet be excited. Finally, having drawn out the reason why Simeon was so eager for Jesus’ birth, to bring hope to the world, we look at our world today and ask the question, ‘What hope does Jesus bring to modern society?’ NB There is a lot of material included in this outline – please don’t feel you have to do all of it, you won’t have time! Choose those activities which you feel most appropriate.

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Game Choose one of the following games. Mince pie race: this game relies on building a sense of anticipation, which fits ideally with the theme. You will need a mince pie for each player, a paper plate for each player, a blindfold for half of the players, table and chairs, paper towels or baby wipes. This is how to play the game with just two players, but you can have more players at a time if you wish. Establish who from the group enjoys eating mince pies, and choose two to come forward to sit on chairs, facing a table. Get out a box of mince pies and place it in front of them. Take your time over this, fuss over them, getting them ready for their meal. Finally remove one mince pie each, and place it on the table in front of each of them. Tell them that they may start eating as a race when you get to 1; and then count down from 5, but stop at 2 and stop the children too before they dive in! You will be doing this false countdown several times before they are allowed to eat. Apologise that you have forgotten something, and bring out a paper plate for each mince pie. Perform the false countdown again, stopping at 2. Apologise again, you have forgotten the next thing. Bring out a blindfold each. Perform the false countdown again, stopping at 2. More apologies, this time you instruct them that they should sit on their hands. False countdown. You have just realised that this is too hard, and instead it would be a good idea to have someone help by feeding them. Get two more volunteers to come and kneel down behind each of the first two volunteers. They put their arms underneath the arms of those sat at the table – they have now become the new arms of the blindfolded players. This time perform a real countdown! Make sure that there is plenty of kitchen roll and baby wipes for cleaning up afterwards. Spend a moment after the game talking about anticipation and waiting, and ask the children how it felt. Relate this to how they feel about waiting for Christmas. Also you could say that when you hope for a particular gift at Christmas you are relying on someone else to give it to you, and in the same way that they were relying on someone else to feed them the mince pie. Pass the parcel: you may like to add a forfeit (such as singing a nursery rhyme, naming ten things beginning with the letter P, or a physical challenge) between each layer. Think carefully about whether or not to put sweets between the layers as well – it’s best to ask your school if you are not sure about their ‘healthy eating’ policy or food allergies. After Eight envelope: each person gets to eat an After Eight chocolate, but before they throw the wrapper away the challenge is to try and turn it inside out without ripping it. This is very tricky so perhaps the winner could be the person who tears the wrapper the least. Paper chain race: you will need large pieces of coloured paper (you may prefer to pre-cut the paper), glue sticks, scissors. Good places to get large amounts of coloured paper are either the school resources cupboard (with permission) or else ‘scrap-booking’ paper available from many craft outlets, including larger garden centres. A pack will likely last you a whole year for a number of activities. Try to get packs of paper without a shiny finish coating as they tend to stick better with glue and you can draw on them easier with felt tip pens.

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Set the children a time limit and see how long a paper chain they can make by working as a team of three or four. Use the chains to decorate the room or take back to class to decorate the classroom. Paper chains 2: if you are short of time simply have the children rip a piece of newspaper or other large sheet of paper into as long a strip as they can without breaking it. The longest strip with no breaks wins. Mass Christmas cracker pull: buy a couple of cheap boxes of Christmas crackers and give them to the children to pull. Everyone should put on a hat and tell each other the jokes etc. Alternatively you could make it a two-team competition with half the crackers each. One person from each team is chosen to be decorated. As the crackers are opened this person is decorated with ALL the hats, novelties etc and has to read all the jokes as they are handed to him or her. The first team to have opened all the crackers and completed the decorating and reading is the winner, or you might like to award points for the most creative ways of using the objects. Flour ‘Christmas’ pie: you will need plastic bin liners, one or two bags of cheap flour, a dry towel, a small bowl, a plate, a plastic knife, and either a small sweet, a piece of dried pasta, a grape, a raisin or a small piece of plastic holly. Cut open a few bin liners and lay them on the floor underneath the table where you will be playing this messy game. Divide the children into two teams. Fill the bowl with flour to the very top and pat it down gently to make it firm. Put the plate on top (upside down) and turn the whole thing over, putting it down on a convenient table between the two groups. Lift the bowl off carefully and you should have the flour still in the shape of the bowl. Carefully lay the sweet, pasta etc on the top of the flour pie. One person from each team in turn comes forward and attempts to take a slice from the flour pie using the plastic knife. It is up to you to decide what is a fair attempt, how much should be taken at any one time and how far they have to remove it. As more is taken out it becomes more likely that the object balanced on the top will fall. Traditionally the person who makes the object fall should then use their mouth to pick the object up and you can do this if you wish, you feel it appropriate (and that the children won’t get in too much of a mess) and there is no risk of allergic reaction. But you can end this game by one of the following: • Leaving the object fallen in the flour and announcing the other team as the winner; • Letting the child who caused the object to fall pick it out using fingers, but with eyes closed or blindfolded; • Appointing an adult leader for each team and having the leader use their mouth to pick it out of the flour. Make sure that the children know that they are playing to get the other team’s leader to have a mouthful of flour, and that if their own team makes the object fall then they will lose the game.

Discussion In groups of three or four, or all together, ask the children: what has been the best Christmas present you have ever had? What are you hoping to get for Christmas this year?

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Interview Invite an elderly person from your local church, and the older the better, to come and be interviewed. They should be present from the beginning of the session and be introduced. Don’t forget to tell the school in advance that you would like to bring someone different with you for that week. Ask a couple of general questions such as: do they have a middle name? How old are they? Do they go to church? Then ask them the following questions – the first two were discussed with the children earlier: What has been the best Christmas present you have ever had? What are you hoping to get for Christmas this year? Have you ever had to wait for something for a very long time, and if so what was it, and was it worth the wait? How did it feel to wait for so very long? In your church you may have to ask around to find someone who has waited for something – but it could be anything: a gift, a holiday abroad, even a hip replacement! Make sure you give your guest the questions before they arrive so that they know what they will be asked and have an answer already prepared.

Telling the story The story is re-told in a way that brings out the anticipation and excitement of Simeon. It is suitable for having the children sit and have it read to them, or if you prefer you could learn the main themes and retell it in your own words, or have two people speaking the dialogue. Alternatively you could use Playmobile or Lego figures to create the scene on the floor and retell it using the figures and a script. If you choose to do this, read through the story first and have the pictures described clear in your own mind first. The temple in Jerusalem was so big that you could have fitted a cathedral inside it and still had room to spare. The columns were huge and thick to hold the roof up, and there were many rooms. Children of the day would go to ‘school’ there each morning to learn the scriptures from the priests. This story is not directly from the Bible. It is the imagined story of a boy named Jonathan who meets the real character Simeon, and watches Jesus being presented at the temple. You can read the original story in the Bible from Luke 2:22–35. The quotation is taken from the Good News Bible, verses 29–32. After the story, explore with the children why waiting for Jesus was so important to Simeon. You might like to talk about how the Jews were very unhappy being controlled by the Romans and felt it wasn’t God’s plan, and they were waiting for him to ‘rescue’ them. But what Simeon said draws out how he really knew God’s heart, that Jesus had come to save the whole world – tell the children that the word ‘Gentile’ means anyone who isn’t a Jew. Jonathan was eight years old, and like any other eight-year-old boy he liked to play ball with his friends – kicking it, throwing it, or trying to hit it with his head. You might think this was football, but it was only like it. Football hadn’t really been invented, because this story is from 2000 years ago, about forty days after Jesus was born, and it happened in the town called Jerusalem. Jonathan really liked playing ‘football’ with his friends. They played it every day when they left the temple after their morning lessons, outside in the big space right in front of the doors. Of course they weren’t really allowed to. Probably what the priests didn’t like was that they sneaked the ball into classes, underneath their long outer robes, and then as soon as they were finished chased off, out of the rooms they were working in, nearly knocking everybody flying! Often the priests would just shake their heads, waggle their beards and make despairing grunting noises about it, ‘Young people today, whatever is the world coming to. We were never like that!’

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They all said that. Well they all did apart from one of the oldest men there called Simeon. He was so old that no one could quite remember when he had first arrived at the temple in Jerusalem and said his first prayers. He was there every day, praying and talking with God, and everyone thought he was fantastic. Particularly the boys. For Jonathan and his friends Simeon always had a smile and a twinkle in his eye. Sometimes if the ball escaped from them as they ran to the outer courts of the temple to play he would scoop it up throw it back to them. A couple of times he had even hidden the ball behind his back when the high priest came near and looked all innocent, then threw it to the boys when the high priest wasn’t looking. One day, straight after morning lessons, Jonathan came charging around the corner and bumped into Simeon so hard he knocked the old man over. ‘Oh, sorry sir,’ said Jonathan worriedly, ‘I didn’t see you there.’ ‘It’s all right,’ said Simeon, laughing as he picked himself up off the floor ‘I don’t think anything would bother me today.’ Jonathan looked at Simeon curiously. Simeon’s eyes seemed to shine more than ever and his smile was so big, and the lines on his old face so deep that it seemed that it would break into a thousand tiny pieces. Jonathan had to ask the question, and he asked it before he even thought about whether or not it was the right thing to say: ‘Why? What’s happening? Is someone important coming?’ He couldn’t think of anyone who could be more important than the High Priest, and he saw him most days. He was usually telling Jonathan off for something or other when he did see him. ‘Ah well,’ said Simeon, ‘I have been waiting a very long time for today. Yes, a very long time indeed! The Lord God of heaven’s Holy Spirit told me that I would not die before I had seen what would happen today, and that was many, many years ago. But at last it is here, and I am more excited than you could ever imagine!’ Jonathan couldn’t imagine anything more exciting than playing football with his friends. So he asked again, ‘But what is going to happen?’ Simeon didn’t say anything. He just smiled again, winked, put his finger to his lips to make out that it was a secret, and then said, ‘If you can wait quietly with me, maybe you will see. Just stay here in the shadows.’ Jonathan did. He found it hard to sit still because it’s really difficult when you are excited about something, especially if you don’t know what it is. He started thinking to himself about all the sorts of exciting things it could be. But somehow he did manage to stay quiet. Then after what seemed hours he decided he must speak and ask Simeon another question, but when he turned to the old man he discovered that he had gone. He must have slipped away when Jonathan was looking in the other direction! Jonathan peered around the huge stone column holding up the roof of the temple that he was hiding behind, and there he saw Simeon in the large open space right in the middle of the temple. Simeon’s face shone, he looked almost unable to control his happiness. Jonathan looked around but all he could see was a young mum, her husband and a baby, there for the ceremony of purification and dedication that

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happened to all Jewish babies according to the Law of Moses. And it was to this little family that Simeon was speaking with great excitement, and the young woman and man were standing their looking amazed at was he was saying. But what was so special about this baby? Why had his old friend spent so many years just waiting for this one day? Just then, Simeon started to say a prayer, and he was doing so in such a loud voice that Jonathan could hear every single word! ‘Now, Lord,’ Simeon said, ‘You have kept your promise, and you may let your servant go in peace. With my own eyes I have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples: A light to reveal your will to the Gentiles and bring glory to your people Israel!’ Jonathan’s mind raced – what could Simeon possibly mean? Who was this child? He thought harder than he had ever done before… remembering all those lessons that he had had in the temple, telling him how he should live his life; the history of his own people; and the promises of God. And then it suddenly struck him, now he knew for sure who this baby was. He was God’s own son, the Messiah!

Response You can read this part directly to the children, or use your own words. Hope is looking forward to something and maybe having to wait a very long time. You are also said to ‘have hope’ when what is happening in your life or in the world around you isn’t nice, but you ‘hope’ that everything will get better. Hope so often comes from someone else – a bit like waiting for someone to feed you the mince pie! God is that kind of hope to many people. Some people are sick and they hope God will make them better; some are lonely and they hope that God will be their friend.

Prayer craft activity Draw on a large sheet of paper (wallpaper or flipchart paper for example) the words ‘[email protected]’ in big letters. Use Post-it notes for the children to write down situations they know about where someone needs God’s hope to keep them going, then stick the Post-its onto the large sheet. Say a prayer for the situations at the end. Alternatively, use newspaper headlines from the day. Make sure that you check the newspapers first for suitable or unsuitable content. Stick the headlines to a large sheet of paper, prepared as above. Have the children think of ways in which the people involved in the headlines might need God’s hope. Ask the children either to say prayers or to write short prayers on Post-its and stick them next to the appropriate headlines to make a collage; or you as leader could end the session with a prayer which relates to the situations you have all found.

Extra activity Many schools take part in the Shoe Box Appeal, also known as Operation Christmas Child. You can find more details at www.samaritanspurse.org/OCC. There are other appeals like this in many local areas, some run by local churches or church groups. If your school is not linked in with anything yet, you could find something suitable and obtain as much information as possible about what they are

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doing to bring hope to other children around the world at Christmas time. If appropriate you could encourage the school to get involved and your group could help to organise it, make posters and run assemblies or even lessons based on the theme.

Songs Two possible songs are: ‘Light for everyone’ from the CD Light for Everyone (available from www.scriptureunion.org.uk/light/lightforeveryone.asp), or ‘May the God of hope (fill you with all joy and peace)’ by Doug Horley from the CD Lovely Jubbly (available from www.duggiedugdug.org/acatalog/Duggies_Catalogue_Lovely_Jubbly___13.html).

Fun sheet Give the children copies of the fun sheet (from the session resources) and let them complete the activities.

Craft activity Make a paper bauble, as illustrated opposite, to hang on the tree. You will need a copy of the craft sheet (from the session resources) for each child, scissors, glue sticks and glitter or glitter glue pens, felt tips or crayons, and optionally decorative items such as sequins or small beads. Either follow the instructions on the craft sheet, or alternatively use coloured paper as follows: For each child, cut three strips of coloured paper each between 30 and 40 cm long and 2½ cm wide. On one strip write the words from Romans 15:13: May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace. Make sure that the children allow 2 cm at each end of the strip for overlap when the strip is made into a loop. Decorate each of the strips on one side with glitter, coloured pens or crayons, or even stick on craft items like small sequins. Be very careful that the children do not make the paper too ‘wet’ or heavy with the decorations otherwise the paper will be too fragile to stick together. Form each length into a loop, overlapping the ends by about 2 cm, and stick using paper glue or sticky tape. Stick the loops together as shown in the picture above, again using tape or glue. Stick some coloured ribbon or wool at the top in a loop to hang on the tree.

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