It’s the final Sunday of Advent. Christmas is just around the corner. God’s love incarnate is about to be born! In this lesson, children will not only explore love through the story of a pregnant Mary and Elizabeth meeting to celebrate their babies and God’s unwavering love, they will also consider the ways that the four Advent themes connect and how love can change the world.
You will need
- A Bible
- Advent game pieces in a bowl (Download the attachment, cut out the pieces, fold them in half and place them in a bowl).
- Walking water rainbow activity: clear cups, water, food coloring and paper towels (optional)
- Care bags activity: large clear plastic bags, pairs of socks, hygiene and first aid items, non-perishable snacks and bottles of water (optional)
- Love wins activity: blank index cards, crayons or markers, yarn and a single hole punch (optional)
Greet the children as they arrive.
Ask the children to stand in a circle. Introduce the Advent game. Tell the children that they will be passing around a bowl with slips of paper in it. A child will pick a slip from the bowl and will read what it says out loud. Then, each person will make one of the following motions to show whether they think the word is an example of hope, peace, joy or love. Each person should make their own decision about what category the word fits into. Everyone may not be making the same motion at the same time.
Introduce the four motions to the children. You may want to run through these a few times before playing the game.
- Hope: Hold out hands in front of you.
- Peace: Hold hands together in prayer pose
- Joy: Jump up and down
- Love: Make a heart shape using both hands
Pass the bowl of paper slips to the first child. Ask him or her to select a slip and to read it out loud. Then, ask the other children to make the motion that corresponds with the category they think it fits with. Notice if there are differences of opinion.
Play the game until all of the slips have been used.
- Was it easy or hard to figure out what category each word fit into? Why?
- Were there some words that you thought might fit more than one category? Why?
Exploring the passage
Say a prayer.
Provide context for the lectionary reading (Luke 1:39-45):
- This story comes from the New Testament Gospel of Luke.
- Prior to the events in this story, Mary is visited by an angel who tells her that God would like for her to carry a special child in her womb. This child will be very special, and his name will be Jesus. Mary is surprised by the angel’s request but tells him she will carry this child.
- The angel also tells Mary that her relative Elizabeth, a woman who is quite old, is also pregnant. Elizabeth and her husband Zechariah have been praying for a child for many years.
- Mary sets off to visit Elizabeth at her home.
Read aloud Luke 1:39-45.
After reading, ask:
- Today we’re thinking about the Advent theme of love. Where was there love in this story?
- The baby that is growing inside of Elizabeth will become John the Baptist, the man who prepares the way for Jesus to teach, preach and heal. Why do you think this baby (John) jumps inside his mother’s womb when Mary speaks to Elizabeth?
- How will Jesus and John the Baptist share God’s love when they are adults? (Children can draw on their knowledge of Bible stories or they can wonder about the ways these men will share love.)
Relating the passage to our lives
Help the children explore God’s love in action in the world through one or more of these activities.
- Walking water rainbow: Gather the supplies you’ll need for this activity: 6 clear cups per child, water, food coloring and paper towels. Tell the children that God loves the world so much that God wanted to be very close to it, so God came here in the form of Jesus to show us that love. We are called to continue sharing that love with others. When we do, we continue Jesus’ work. Facilitate this activity from Flame Creative Kids [insert link: flamecreativekids.blogspot.com/2017/02/sharing-gods-love-walking-water-rainbow.html]. After the activity, ask the children how they might share God’s love with others.
- Care bags: Gather the supplies you’ll need for this activity: large zipper plastic bags, bottles of water, pairs of socks, non-perishable snack items, and simple hygiene and first aid items (ex. Band-Aids, wet wipes, lip balm, menstrual supplies). Tell the children that one of the ways we can share the love of Christ is by caring for vulnerable people in our community. People experiencing homelessness may not have access to basic items and may struggle more during the Winter because temperatures are colder. One small act of care and love we can share is providing people experiencing homelessness who we encounter with these basic items. Have the children create care bags with a selection of basic supplies. Encourage them to keep these in their parents’/caregivers’ cars to hand out to people as they encounter them.
- Love wins: Gather the supplies you’ll need for this activity: blank index cards, crayons or markers, yarn and a single hole punch. Have the children wonder what the phrase “love wins” means. Ask them to think of times when love has won. Encourage them to consider examples from their own lives and the larger world. Then, have them draw or write about each of these on the index cards using crayons or markers. String these together by using the single hole punch to place holes at the top and bottom of each index card. Run a piece of yarn through each hole and tie it to connect one card to another. Repeat this until all of the cards are strung together. Hang your “love wins” garland somewhere in the church building where others can see it.
Conclude your time together by offering a prayer for the young disciples to share God’s love with the world and for all to know this love.