There’s a concept in improvisational theatre referred to as “yes, and.”
It goes something like this: When an actor in an improvised scene does or says something, the other performers accept it as truth and act accordingly. In other words, if actor A says, “Boy, it sure is cold out here,” everyone else in the scene responds as if they are outdoors on a chilly day. But, it’s not enough for the improvisers to simply say “yes” to an idea. To propel the scene along, they must add an element to the plot or another dimension to the characters. Actor B could respond by blowing on her hands, saying, “And the bus is running late, yet again.” When each player embraces “yes and,” a sense of trust is created within the group and the scene is propelled forward.
I’m struck by what a good metaphor this concept is for thinking about Mary. In one of this week’s lectionary readings, we hear Mary say “yes” to a very unique motherhood experience. But her “yes” isn’t simply a “yes.” It’s also an “and.” In this activity, you and your children will explore the powerful commitment Mary makes by agreeing to bear and raise Jesus and you’ll consider the ways your family says “yes and” as disciples of Christ.
Begin the time with your children by sitting together in a circle. Tell them you’ll be creating a story together. One person will start the story and then will “pass” it to the next person to add a new part to it. The story will keep moving from person to person until it has come to an end. Begin the story using characters and details that appeal to your children or ask a child to start it off. When the story is complete, discuss the experience. What parts of the story worked well? Did the story fall apart? Why? Note that the best stories are created when each person accepts and understands the parts that come before they speak and then each adds another related detail to the plot.
Prepare to read aloud Luke 1:26-38. You might read the passage directly from the Bible or you may want to offer a child-friendly retelling from a children’s Bible, especially if your children are younger. Before you begin reading, encourage your children to notice what Mary says in this story. Read the text aloud. Then ask your children to share what they heard Mary say to the angel. Focus in on Mary’s “yes.” Ask them to imagine what Mary must have been feeling when she told the angel she would agree to carry the baby Jesus. You may even want to have them pretend to be Mary, saying the words they suppose she may have said to herself once the angel left her home.
Next, ask your children to think about what other Bible stories they have heard that include Mary. They likely will recall Jesus’ birth in the stable. Encourage them to recall stories that occurred after that point in time. You can read aloud a few Scripture passages featuring Mary, including the Magnificat, Mary’s song to God (Luke 1:46-55), the boy Jesus in the temple (Luke 2:41-52), Jesus performing his first miracle at the wedding at Cana (John 2:1-12) and Mary at Jesus’ feet during his crucifixion (John 19:26-27). As you read each story, ask your children to notice what Mary does and says. Note that her role in Jesus’ life extends beyond saying “yes” to carrying him in her womb and giving birth to him. She also agrees to be part of the life of this extraordinary child and to be with him throughout his ministry. Ask your children to imagine what it must have been like for Mary to walk alongside Jesus throughout his life.
After exploring the Scripture reading, tell your children that your family also says “yes and” to Jesus by becoming his modern-day disciples. We say “yes” to all Jesus stood for and we work to continue his work on earth through our own actions. As a reminder of that commitment, create a family “yes and” poster. Gather a recent newspaper and markers or crayons. Open the newspaper up to a page that has mostly black print. Remove this page from the larger newspaper and place it on the table in front of your children. (The black ink will make it easier to read what you write on it.) Explain that the newspaper reminds us that we are Christ’s disciples at a particular point in time. At the top of the paper write: As followers of Christ, our family says yes to… Then, together with your children brainstorm the values that you hold as Jesus’ disciples. Write each of these on the left side of the paper. Next to each of these ideals write the word and. Talk with your children about ways your family lives into these beliefs. Write these beside and. If you have older children, they can serve as scribes for this activity. If your children are younger and you need to write the words for them, ask them to draw pictures to accompany each idea. When the poster is complete, hang it in your home as a reminder of your family’s commitment to serving as Christ’s hands and feet.
JOELLE BRUMMIT-YALE is the director of children’s and youth ministries at Chapel in the Pines Presbyterian in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. When not at the church, she can usually be found at home with her son and husband caring for their many animals and developing their family homestead.