At the beginning of the year, we often reflect on the previous year and prepare for what is to come. We look back at what went well and what we wished we could change and what we hope will happen in the new year. It is apt that this Sunday we celebrate and examine Jesus’ baptism, as it set in motion Jesus’ public ministry. In this lesson, children will explore the story of Jesus’ baptism and will consider how they can continue to live into the call to be Christ’s hands and feet.
You will need
- A Bible
- A bowl of water and a liturgy for reaffirmation of baptism (optional)
- Computer with internet access connected to a data projector or television, YouTube video “Kid President: Make The Year Awesome For Someone,” copies of star cutouts, crayons or markers
Greet the children as they arrive.
Ask the children to sit in a circle on the floor or around a table to face one another.
- It is now 2023. I wonder what will happen this year. What do you think will happen?
- What are your hopes for 2023?
- What do you hope you will do in 2023?
Exploring the passage
Say a prayer.
Provide context for the lectionary reading (Matthew 3:13-17):
- The Gospel of Matthew quickly moves from Jesus’ infancy to his adulthood. Chapters 1 and 2 tell of Jesus’ birth, Epiphany (the Magi visiting Jesus), and the holy family’s escape to Egypt.
- In Chapter 3, we hear about Jesus and John the Baptist as adults.
- John the Baptist is preparing people to receive Jesus’ teachings by asking them to repent (share with God all of their missteps) and to be baptized in the Jordan River.
- Jesus comes to John to ask him to baptize him, just as he has many others.
Read aloud Matthew 3:13-17. There are many versions of this story in children’s Bibles. If you are using Growing in God’s Love: A Story Bible, the retelling draws from Luke’s Gospel, but the details are similar enough that the children will be able to engage in the discussion and activities in this lesson.
After reading, ask:
- How does John react to Jesus’ request to be baptized?
- Why does Jesus say he needs to be baptized?
- What is God’s reaction to Jesus’ baptism?
- Why do you think God responds in this way?
- Following his baptism, Jesus goes into the wilderness to prepare to preach and teach. His baptism plus this time in the wilderness help him get ready to begin his ministry on earth. Why do you think Jesus took these steps?
- How do you think Jesus’ baptism prepare him to share God’s word?
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.
- Remembering your baptism: Gather the materials you’ll need for this activity: a bowl of water and a reaffirmation of baptism liturgy. Here is a liturgy from PC(USA) that you may choose to use. (The sections from call to confession to reaffirmation of baptism would work best for this lesson.) Ask the children to share what they know about their baptisms. Then, tell them they’re going to be remembering the experience of being baptized today. Place the bowl of water in a central location where children can walk to it easily. Read the liturgy aloud. After you have finished the liturgy, have each child come to the bowl of water. Encourage them to touch it and to place some on their foreheads. Finish your time by discussing what it felt like to remember their baptisms.
- Make the year awesome for someone: Gather the materials you’ll need for this activity: a computer with internet access connected to a data projector or television screen, access to “Kid President: Make the Year Awesome for Someone” video, enough copies of a paper star for each child to receive one, and markers or crayons. Remind the children that Jesus begins preaching, teaching, and healing people after his baptism. As he does so, people begin to follow him. We are his modern-day disciples, called to be Jesus’ hands and feet on earth. Show the Kid President video. After watching the video, tell the children that they can make the world a better place for one person or for many people. Hand each child a paper star. Ask them to write or draw ways that they can serve God’s world in the next year. Encourage them to include actions they’d like to continue as well as new actions they’d like to undertake. After each child has completed their star, ask them to share their intentions with one another. Hang the stars in the classroom.
Conclude your time together by praying for one another and for the larger world.