Joy is something that children truly understand. They play, laugh, and sing with unabashed joy. And they can easily recognize joy in one another. When they discover that joy is more than just a feeling — that it is connected to hope, peace, and love — they begin to see the joy that comes from being a disciple of Christ.
On the third Sunday of Advent, children will explore Mary’s song, the Magnificat, discovering the multi-layered joy that Jesus brings to the world. Then, they will consider how they might share the joy of Christ with a world in need of good news.
You will need
- A Bible
- Plastic trays, shaving cream, food coloring, toothpicks, white paper and corrugated cardboard (optional)
- Plastic eggs, dried beans, colored masking tape (optional)
- A computer with internet access connected to a television or data projector and access to this video (optional)
Greet the children as they arrive.
Have the children stand in a circle and play “Jump for Joy” with them. Ask each person in the circle to share an experience that gave them joy. After each person shares, all of the children will jump up joyfully. Rotate through the group several times.
After playing the game, ask:
- How did it feel to tell others about something that gave you joy?
- How did it feel to celebrate one another’s joys?
Exploring the passage
Say a prayer.
Provide context for the lectionary reading (Luke 1:47-55):
- Today’s reading comes from the New Testament Gospel of Luke.
- Before this story takes place, Mary, Jesus’ mother, is greeted by an angel who tells her God would like for her to carry a special child. This child will be “God with Us.” Mary agrees, telling the angel, “Here, I am, the servant of the Lord” (Luke 1:38).
- Mary travels to visit her relative Elizabeth, who is pregnant with John the Baptist. The women celebrate their pregnancies.
- Mary is filled with gratitude for God, so she sings a song of praise. Our reading is that song.
Read aloud Luke 1:47-55.
After reading, ask:
- Mary sings about what God has done for her. What does she praise God for?
- What does Mary say God has done for the people of God?
- How do the things Mary praises God for bring joy to the world?
- How do you think God continues to bring joy to the world?
Relating the passage to our lives
Help the children explore the joy that God continues to provide to creation through one or more of these activities.
- Swirls of joy paper: Gather the supplies that you’ll need for this activity: plastic trays, shaving cream, food coloring, toothpicks, white paper and pieces of corrugated cardboard. Ask the children to share how joy can make life better. Tell the children they will be making a craft that represents the ways that joy changes our lives and makes them brighter. Provide each child with a plastic tray. Cover each tray in a layer of shaving cream about ¼-inch thick. Then, have each child squeeze a few drops of food coloring around the shaving cream, scattering the color throughout the shaving cream. Make sure they know that the color is concentrated, so they do not need a lot of food coloring. Have them swirl the colors around in the shaving cream using the toothpicks. Then, provide them with several sheets of white paper. Using one sheet at a time, they can gently press the paper onto the shaving cream. When they lift the paper, it will be “dyed” with marbled color. They can scrape the excess shaving cream off with a piece of cardboard. Set the paper aside to dry. It can be used for other craft activities or as stationary.
- Joyful noise shakers: Gather the supplies you’ll need for this craft, plastic eggs, dried beans and colored masking tape. Read Psalm 100:1 to the children. Ask them what this verse means to them. Share that we can “make a joyful noise” to God in many ways. One is through music. Provide each child with two complete plastic eggs. Ask them to open each egg and fill one side of it with dried beans. Once they have put the eggs back together, tape them closed using masking tape. You can also provide permanent markers for them to decorate their shaker eggs. Sing a few songs together, encouraging the children to use their shakers to “make a joyful noise” along with their voices.
- Exploring the Christmas Joy Offering: Tell the children each year PC(USA) churches collect a special offering on Christmas which, in part, benefits Presbyterian schools and colleges that support the development of people of color. Share this video from 2015 that shows how the offering has helped a young person grow and flourish. After watching the video, discuss how access to a nurturing education can help bring joy to someone’s life.
As you conclude your time together, offer a prayer for the coming week.
Encourage the children to seek and spread the joy that improves the lives of those around them, especially those experiencing difficulty during the holiday season.