For Times of Fear and Uncertainty
From “Sitting on the Rainbow”
Artwork by Elsa Ingulsrud
Scripture Reference: 1 John 4:16-19
Can you think of a time when you were really afraid? What was it that made you scared? (Let children share.) When did you stop being scared? What was it that comforted you or made you stop being afraid? (Children can tell about their experiences.) When we are scared, it can make all the difference in the world to have someone who loves us close by. Knowing that someone loves us and is there to protect and comfort us can make our fear disappear.
(You may discuss fearful times the children might have experienced, or you may share a time when you felt afraid and then comforted. My example follows.) When my mother was a little girl, she lived on a farm in northern Minnesota. She had to walk to and from school, which was about a mile away. One day, in the middle of winter, a blizzard blew in from the north. When school let out and they started home, it was snowing heavily and the wind was blowing very hard right in their faces. They knew they would have to walk all the way across a frozen lake to reach home. My mother was afraid they wouldn’t make it, that they might get lost in the snow and never reach home. Suddenly, all her fears disappeared. There, right in front of them, stood her father with a toboggan ready to pull them home. He tucked my mother, her brother, and her sister into the sled and covered them up with a big buffalo-skin robe. Then he pulled them all the way home.
There are many things in our world that might make us feel afraid. But do you ever feel afraid of God? (Talk about the responses to this question.) Do you think that God wants us to be afraid of him? The Bible tells us that God is love and that there is no fear in love. 1 John, chapter 4, says that if we really understand God’s love for us and let ourselves be wrapped up in that love, then we will have no fear.
God does not want us to be afraid of him. He wants us to know that he loves us so much that we need to have no fear at all. God is love, and when his love fills us, there is no room left for fear.
God does not want us to be afraid of other things in this world either. Of course, we should stay away from dangerous things so that we don’t get hurt. You shouldn’t ever touch a gun or take drugs that your parents or doctor haven’t given to you. But being careful is much different from being afraid. God wants us to live our lives without fear. God has promised to be with us always; nothing in the whole world can take God’s love away from us. The next time that you start to feel afraid, remember that God is there, God’s love is surrounding you, and there is no need to be afraid.
Prayer: Surround us with your perfect love, dear God, and help us to live our lives with no fear. Thank you for wrapping us up in your love.
Transfiguration Sunday; Last Sunday after the Epiphany
Adapted from “Scolding the Snakes”
Scripture Reference: Luke 9:28-36
Today is Transfiguration Sunday. Transfiguration means to change the way something or someone looks. On this day, we remember how Jesus went up on a mountaintop with his disciples and showed them just how special he was.
Jesus had told his disciples, his close friends, that he would be killed and later rise from the dead. How do you think the disciples looked when Jesus told them that bad things were going to happen to him? Show me how the faces of the disciples must have looked. (Let the kids act out the sad emotions.) They must have been very, very sad.
Eight days after he had told them this, he chose three of his disciples, Peter, James, and John to climb up a mountain with him. Let’s all pretend we’re climbing together. (Pantomime climbing motions.) Whew! Let’s sit down and rest like the disciples did when they got to the top. (Sit down together on steps or floor.) Jesus took the disciples with him up that mountain to pray, but the disciples were very tired. The disciples prayed with him for awhile. Let’s all pray like the disciples. (Fold your hands with children.) But pretty soon those tired disciples fell asleep. Show me how you can fall asleep on the ground. (Let kids act out sleeping.)
While Jesus was praying, his face and clothing began to glow like a light was shining inside him. His clothing turned white and glowed brightly. Two famous prophets, Moses and Elijah—men who had lived many, many years earlier—suddenly were right there talking to Jesus. The disciples woke up and saw the brightness and glory of Jesus, and they saw the two prophets talking with him. They were so surprised, they couldn’t speak.
What do you think the disciples looked like when they saw Jesus glowing and those old prophets standing in front of them? Show me what they might have looked like. (Make a look of amazement on your face and invite kids to do the same.) I’m sure that this was a day that those disciples remembered for the rest of their lives.
Jesus was showing his disciples that he was truly special, that he was the Son of God. How do you think that made them feel about him? (Let children answer.) Jesus wanted to remind them that no matter what might happen, and no matter how sad they might feel or how bad things might seem, Jesus was very, very special. He was God’s Son. He would always be there to help them. This is what we remember and celebrate on Transfiguration Sunday.
Prayer: Jesus, thank you for always being nearby to love and help us. Remind us over and over again how very special you are and how very lucky we are.
Fourth Sunday of Advent
From “Scolding the Snakes”
Scripture Reference: Luke 1:39-55
Preparation: You may have a song queued up to play at the end of the children’s time.
Today, how many candles are lit on the Advent wreath? (Children may respond.) It’s the fourth Sunday in Advent, isn’t it? It’s almost – almost – time for Christmas! We want to be ready for Christmas and we want to be ready when Jesus comes to earth again.
Is everyone ready? The Gospel lesson for today shows us two women who were ready for God’s son to come. Mary had just been told by the angel Gabriel, that she was going to be the mother of Jesus, God’s Son. The angel also told her that her cousin Elizabeth, who was very old and had never been able to have children, was pregnant. This was a lot of amazing news for Mary to take in, but Mary was ready. She believed what the angel said. She said she would be willing to be the mother of this special baby. Mary was ready for Christmas.
Mary’s cousin Elizabeth was ready too. Elizabeth was much older than most mothers, and she was having a baby for the first time. She knew something special was happening. God was at work. Elizabeth’s son would be named John the Baptist, and he would help make the world ready for Jesus. Elizabeth was ready for Christmas.
Even the tiny baby inside Elizabeth – John the Baptist – was ready. Mary went to visit her cousin, Elizabeth. And as soon as Mary stepped through the door and said, “Hello,” the baby inside Elizabeth moved and Elizabeth knew that Mary had a wonderful secret. God told her that Mary was going to be the mother of God’s Son. Elizabeth told Mary, “The instant I heard your voice, my baby jumped for joy! You are blessed because you believed the Lord’s promise to you.”
Mary was ready. Elizabeth was ready. Even John the Baptist – who wasn’t even born yet – was ready. The world was getting ready for Jesus, ready for the first Christmas. God was getting their hearts ready. All of these people were believing in God. Mary sang a song of joy, and the baby, John, leaped for joy. They were excited and happy.
We get excited before Christmas, don’t we? As Christmas gets closer and closer, sometimes it’s hard to hold all that excitement in. We just have to jump up and down or sing or yell. (You may share a childhood memory of your own or an expression that shows your excitement.) What do you do when you’re really excited and happy? (Let children share.)
It’s a good thing to be excited about Christmas! Jesus is coming! Let’s all leap for joy! (You may leap and yell, “Hooray!” with the children or play a short, happy song to celebrate the coming of Christmas.)
Prayer: Jesus, we love you and can’t wait to celebrate your birth once again. Thank you for coming to be born.
Pentecost Proper 26
From “Sitting on the Rainbow”
Artwork by Elsa Ingulsrud
Scripture Reference: Mark 12:41-44
Preparation: Bring two bags containing stickers or some other kind of prize or treat. One bag should contain just a few items, the other, many items. Have extra items yourself to give to the helper with the meager prize-bag.
I have two bags of prizes with me this morning. I’d like two volunteers to help me hand them out. (Pick your helpers and give them each a bag.) As you can see, one of the bags is more full than the other. I’d like my helpers to start handing out prizes. They have to take turns, though, as they hand out their prizes. First one person will give out a prize, then the other person will give out a prize until everybody has been given a prize. Then, after everybody has gotten a prize, these two helpers get to keep for themselves whatever is left in their bags. We can help by counting as they hand them out. (Let the volunteers begin. Try to make sure that the one with the meager bag has few or no prizes left when finished.) Does everyone have a prize?
Which one of these two helpers gave out the most prizes? (Let children respond.) They handed out about the same number, didn’t they? But one has very few prizes left and the other still has a bag full. So they may have handed out the same number, but which of these two do you think was the more generous? (Children may answer.) The one with just a few prizes to begin with gave away almost all that she had. The one with lots of prizes still has plenty left. (Give your extra prizes to the helper with the empty bag. Then have the two helpers sit down with the rest of the children.)
Something like this happened when Jesus and his disciples were sitting at the temple, watching people drop their money in the offering box. As they watched the crowds come by, they saw many rich people put in large amounts of money. It was an impressive offering the rich people gave. Then along came a poor widow. She put just a small amount into the box. But Jesus saw her, and he said to his disciples, “This poor widow has given more than all the others have given. For they have given a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she has” (Mark 12:43-44 nlt).
When we give our offerings of money or time or talent to God, he doesn’t compare our offerings to those of other people. Some of us have more time or more money than others to begin with. God looks at what we have to start with, and God looks at the attitude we have about giving. When we give with a generous and thankful heart as much as we possibly can, God is very pleased and happy.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, help us be generous in sharing all the gifts that came from you in the first place.