Certain songs are synonymous with Christmas. These tunes are so tightly knit into the cultural fabric that as soon as we reach the first of December, we play them. Often when we come to church during Advent, we expect to hear these Christmas carols. But Christmas is not here yet! As we slowly prepare ourselves for the joyous birth of Jesus, we can turn to another set of songs that can ground us in the four themes of Advent: Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love.
In this lesson, children will hear and explore the hymn of hope “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus.” They’ll consider what it has to say about the great hope we have in the coming birth of our Lord and will identify ways they can live into hope during the season of Advent.
You will need:
- Chart paper or whiteboard and markers
- A computer with Internet access connected to a data projector or television
- Video recording(s) of “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus.” Here are a few you may want to choose from:
- A hymnal for each child (optional)
- Printed copies of the sheet music and lyrics for “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus” (optional)
- Short article from Building Faith about using lectio divina with children (optional)
- Colored pencils or highlighters (optional)
- Copies of comic book template and drawing supplies (pencils, colored pencils, crayons, markers). (optional)
- Several sheets of white paper and drawing supplies (pencils, colored pencils, crayons, markers) (optional)
- Video: “Skit Guys: Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus”
Greet the children as they arrive.
Create two columns on a sheet of chart paper or the whiteboard. Write “Christmas” at the top of one column and “Advent” at the top of the other.
Ask the children to list songs that remind them of Christmas. Write their responses in the Christmas column on the whiteboard or chart paper.
Then ask the children to list songs that remind them of Advent. If the children are unsure what Advent is, offer a reminder. Write any responses they offer on the whiteboard or chart paper. There will likely be fewer songs in the Advent column.
Have the children wonder why we know more songs about Christmas than we do about Advent.
Singing the faith
Tell the children that singing is one of the ways that we share, explore and express our faith.
Hand each child a hymnal. Encourage them to thumb through it for a few minutes looking for songs that they recognize.
Ask the children to turn to the Advent section of the hymnal. In the blue Presbyterian hymnal, it begins with hymn #1. In the red Glory to God hymnal, it begins at hymn #82. If you have a different hymnal, locate the Advent section and show the children where it begins.
Then have the children turn to “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus” (#1 in the blue hymnal and #82 in the red Glory to God hymnal). Alternatively, you can download and print a PDF version of the music and lyrics from Hymnary.org.
Play “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus.” You may choose to play any of the recorded versions listed above and project the video, as many include the lyrics. You may also want to choose a version you love or that is familiar to your congregation. You could also play multiple recordings so the children can experience it in different musical styles.
Connecting to the song
Help the children to the song through one or more of these activities.
- Lectio Divina exploration of lyrics: As you prepare for the activity, you may want to review this short article from Building Faith about using lectio divina with children. Gather the materials you’ll need for this activity: printed copies of “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus” and colored pencils or highlighters. Share an introduction to the practice of lectio divina. Tell children this is a way of reading Scripture where we ask the Holy Spirit to help us notice what the words are saying to us. They will have an opportunity to explore this hymn using a modification of this method. Hand each child a printed copy of the hymn and a colored pencil or highlighter. Offer a prayer of illumination. Then play the song once (using one of the linked recordings listed above) asking the children to highlight or circle any words or phrases that “jump out” at them while listening. Play the song a second time asking them to repeat this process noticing any new words or phrases. Ask each child to share their response. Have the children wonder why these words or phrases speak to them.
- Comic book hymn: Gather the materials you’ll need for this activity. If each child is creating an individual comic book version of the hymn you’ll need: printed copies of “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus,” copies of comic book template and drawing supplies (pencils, colored pencils, crayons, markers). If the group is creating a communal comic book version you’ll need: printed copies of “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus,” several sheets of white paper and drawing supplies (pencils, colored pencils, crayons, markers). Tell the children they are going to create a comic book version of the hymn. Hand out printed copies of the lyrics. Walk through each line helping the children with any unfamiliar vocabulary. If children are working independently, give each child several comic book template sheets. Ask them to draw pictures to represent each part of the hymn. They can divide it up by line or by verse. Each section should be in a different comic book pane. If the children are working as a group, hand each child a sheet of blank paper. Divide the hymn up into sections assigning each child one portion to illustrate. Ask them to draw pictures representing their part of the hymn on the sheet of paper. Hang the pictures on the wall in order.
- Hope in God’s story: Gather the materials you’ll need for this activity: chart paper or a whiteboard, markers, a computer with Internet access connected to a data projector or television and “Skit Guys: Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus.” Write “hope” on the chart paper or whiteboard. Have the children share what the word means to them. Then ask them to think about stories of hope in the Bible. What stories showed hope? Write their responses on the chart paper/whiteboard. Show “Skit Guys: Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus.” After watching the video, ask the children to recount the images they noticed in the video. Have them share which Bible stories they believe these images depicted. Then, discuss how these stories demonstrate hope. Conclude by asking the children to share how their faith gives them hope.