Crib service 2015 – Christmas in a bag

You will need:

  • envelopes/bags/boxes (one for each child)
  • straw
  • cotton wool
  • stars (could be plastic/wood/cardboard/stickers/whatever you can get hold of)
  • tea lights (or other candles)

Total cost: varies depending on numbers and suppliers. I got enough for 150 children for £6.40.

Choose how you are going to tell the story. This could be the traditional placing the figures in the crib scene. It could be acting out the story (either children or adults, either rehearsed or ‘from scratch’). If you’re short of time to prepare, it could just be reading a book or showing a DVD.

When the children arrive, give them their envelope (or bag or box) and explain that they’re going to be collecting the story during the service. After each section of the story, invite the children to come and collect the next item:

  • After Jesus’ birth: straw, for the stable.
  • After the shepherds: cotton wool, for the sheep.
  • After the wise men: the star.

Finally, invite them to collect their candle. Light everybody’s candle, and talk about Jesus being the Light of the World.

After the candles are blown out and put into the envelopes, invite the children to take away their envelope and use it to tell the story again on Christmas day, and to share the story with other people. If you have materials left over, you could invite the children to make another set to give to someone as a gift.

“Look what I got/made/collected at church” is a great way for children to open up conversations about Jesus with their family and friends. It’s a fun and non-threatening way for them to share and explore their faith with the adults and other children in their lives.

 

A sermon for Advent 3 (featuring Dr Seuss)

Today, on the 3rd Sunday in Advent, we remember John the Baptist; the one who came to tell people that Jesus was coming.

To help us think a bit about John the Baptist, and what we can learn from him, I’d like to share with you this morning one of my favourite books: Horton Hears a Who by Dr Seuss. I’m going to read you the last few pages, but to understand you need to know a bit about the story so far: An elephant called Horton has discovered a whole minature town on a tiny speck of dust. This is Whoville, and the people who live there are the Whos, led by their Mayor. Horton makes friends with the Whos but they are soon threatened by a gang of dastardly kangaroos and monkeys, who want to destroy the speck of dust, and they refuse to believe Horton that the Whos are real, because they can’t hear them. Horton knows that the Whos need to make enough noise for the other animals to hear them, in order to convince them that they really do exist. This is where we pick up the story:

Horton said: “Don’t give up! I believe in you all!
A person’s a person, no matter how small!
And you very small persons will not have to die
if you make yourselves heard! So come on, now, and TRY!”

The mayor grabbed a tom-tom. He started to smack it.
And, all over Who-ville, they whooped up a racket.
They rattled tin kettles! They beat on brass pans,
on garbage pail tops and old cranberry cans!
They blew on bazookas and blasted great toots
on clarinets, oompahs and boom-pahs and flutes!

Great gusts of loud racket rang high through the air.
They rattled and shook the whole sky! And the mayor
called up through the howling mad hullabaloo:
“Hey, Horton! How’s this? Is our sound coming through?”

And Horton called back, “I can hear you fine.
But the kangaroos’ ears aren’t as strong, quite, as mine.
They don’t hear a thing! Are you sure all your boys
are doing their best? Are they ALL making noise?
Are you sure every Who down in Who-ville is working?
Quick! Look through your town! Is there anyone shirking?”

Through the town rushed the mayor from the east to the west.
But everyone seemed to be doing his best.
Everyone seemed to be yapping or yipping!
Everyone seemed to be beeping or bipping!
But it wasn’t enough, all this ruckus and roar!
He HAD to find someone to help him make more.
He raced through each building! He searched floor-to-floor!

And, just as he felt he as getting nowhere,
and almost about to give up in despair,
He suddenly burst through a door and that mayor
discovered on shirker! Quite hidden away
in the Fairfax Apartments (Apartment 12-J)
a very small, very small shirker named Jo-Jo
was standing, just standing and bouncing a Yo-Yo!
Not making a sound! Not a yipp! Not a chirp!
And the mayor rushed inside and he greabbed the young twerp!

And he climbed with the lad up the Eiffelberg Tower.
“This,” cried the mayor, “is your town’s darkest hour!
The time for all Whos who have blood that is red
to come to the aid of their country!” he said.
“We’ve GOT to make noises in greater amounts!
So, open your mouth, lad! For every voice counts!”
Thus he spoke as he climbed. When they got to the top,
the lad cleared his throat and he shouted out, “Yopp!”

And that Yopp…
That one small extra Yopp put it over!
Finally, at last! From that speck on that clover
their voices were heard! They rang out clear and clean.
And the elephant smiled. “Do you see what I mean?…
They’ve proved they ARE persons, not matter how small.
And their whole world was saved by the Smallest of ALL!”

“How true! Yes, how true,” said the big kangaroo.
“And, from now on, you know what I’m planning to do?
From now on, I’m going to protect them with you!”
And the young kangaroo in her pouch said
…ME, TOO!

 

 What, you may be wondering by now, has this got to do with John the Baptist? And what has it got to do with us?

John is described as “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord.’” His particular task from God is to tell people about Jesus, which is just what we see him doing in our gospel reading this morning: “One who is more powerful than I is coming” says John about Jesus.

John’s particular task, his calling from God, his vocation, is to make some noise about Jesus; to proclaim the good news of the coming Messiah; to call people to repentance and a life following Christ. It’s a task he shares with the Old Testament prophets, whom we were thinking about last week. But John is, in a sense, a bit like the littlest Who in our story. He is the one who tips the balance, whose voice is needed to get across a vital message, in this case the good news of Jesus.

John’s task is one we all share. We too are called by God to tell people about Jesus, to share with everyone the good news of what God has done for us and for the whole world. It’s a big calling, and it’s one we all share, every single one of us. Maybe you feel like your voice is too small. Maybe you don’t think you have the right words, or the right education, or the right opportunities. But remember that littlest Who, and his one small “Yopp” which made all the difference. I wonder what your “Yopp” will sound like? Perhaps “I’m praying for you” or “Would you like to come along to this thing at church with me?” or “I’m sorry things are difficult. What can I do?”

One of the things that strikes me about today’s gospel reading is that the people John is speaking to are described as being “filled with expectation… questioning in their hearts”. It strikes me that in our world today there are many people like that: “questioning in their hearts”. And notice John doesn’t meet that questioning by offering an answer, but a person: Jesus. We too don’t need to have all the answers: just a willingness to share the Jesus we know with the people who are questioning, expectant, yearning for something.

So as we wait for the coming of Jesus at Christmas, let it be an active waiting. Let us, like John, prepare the way for Christ’s coming, and be ready to share the good news of Jesus with whoever is ready to listen.