Excerpted from the book by Ruth Gilmore © 2000 – 2011 All Rights Reserved
Advent 3: “Scolding the Snakes”
Preparation: If possible, bring a rubber snake or a picture of a snake to illustrate the sermon.
Can you count the lighted candles on the Advent wreath? (That’s right: three. This is the third week of Advent.) You remember that we said Advent is a time of getting ready. Who remembers what we are getting ready for? (Let children answer.) We want to be ready for Christmas, when Jesus was born, but we also need to be ready for when Jesus comes back.
Jesus was born long ago in Bethlehem, and when he was about thirty years old, he was ready to begin telling people about God and about why he had come to live on earth. But before Jesus began to teach and preach, God wanted to make sure the people were ready to listen. So God sent someone ahead of Jesus to get everyone ready. Do you know who that person was? (Someone may answer.)
A man named John the Baptist was sent to tell the people to get ready for Jesus. He was not a shy or quiet preacher. John the Baptist told people to get ready for Jesus by repenting. And he shouted it loud: “Repent!” To repent means to change your direction, to turn around. It means to stop doing the bad things that God doesn’t like, and to start doing the things that God really wants you to do. What if we had the bad habit of hitting people every time we got angry? If we repent, then what happens? (Let kids offer ideas.) We stop hitting, don’t we?
What if you told God that you were really sorry and promised to stop hitting other people, but in the back of your mind, you were thinking, “I’ll stop hitting everyone except my sister. She makes me so mad.” Does God know what you’re thinking? Is that really repenting?
After hearing John the Baptist, lots of people said they would repent and change. Most of the people really did repent. But some people only wanted to look like they were following God. In their hearts, they didn’t really want to change. John scolded those pretenders. Do you know what he called them? He called them poisonous snakes. (Hold up rubber snake.)
How do many people feel about snakes? (Let children answer. Even though most snakes are harmless — even beneficial — some are poisonous and should not be approached.) Snakes are quiet and kind of sneaky. And some snakes — the dangerous ones — are filled with poison. John was angry with people who pretended to repent. They were like snakes: they were being sneaky with God; they were poisonous inside.
We all do things that are wrong sometimes, but once we know what needs to be changed, we must really want to change it. We don’t want to be sneaky and false like poisonous snakes.
Prayer: Forgive our sins, Lord Jesus, and change us to be more and more like you.