We’ve reached the third Sunday of Advent. We are more than halfway to the birth of Jesus, the one who is the source of all joy. Each year as we light the candle of joy on the Advent wreath, I find the first line of “The Canticle of the Turning” playing in my head (“My soul cries out with a joyful shout…”). This Advent hymn not only captures the bold message of social justice that Mary sings about the child in her womb. It also embodies the joy of Jesus Christ. In this lesson, children will explore “The Canticle of the Turning” and will consider the ways Christ brings joy to the world.
You will need
- Chart paper or a whiteboard and markers
- Video recording(s) of “The Canticle of the Turning.” Here are a few you may want to choose from:
- Copies of speech bubble templates and crayons or markers (optional)
- A printed copy of Holy Troublemakers and Unconventional Saints by Daneen Akers or access to videos of some of the passages from the book (listed below). If you’re using the video readings, you’ll also want to have a computer with Internet access connected to a television or data projector (optional)
- Video selections from Holy Troublemakers and Unconventional Saints: (optional)
Greet the children as they arrive.
Have the children sit facing the whiteboard or chart paper on the wall. At the top of the paper/whiteboard, write “What brings you joy?” Ask the children to share their responses. Record them on the paper/whiteboard.
Say: “Sometimes joy can be tricky. We might feel great joy about a situation, event, or person and at the same time, there might be sadness, confusion, or unease. For example, you may have a chance to go on a great vacation with your family, but the trip might happen at the same time as your best friend’s birthday party. You’ll have a wonderful time with your family, but you’ll be sad that you’re missing your friend’s birthday.”
Ask the children to share other examples of times when joy is tricky. Write their responses on the chart paper/whiteboard.
Singing the faith
Read Luke 1:26-45 aloud to the children. It recounts Mary’s conversation with the angel who tells her God would like for her to carry Jesus in her womb and Mary’s visit to her relative Elizabeth where she shares news of her pregnancy.
After reading the passage, ask the children:
- What is joyful about Mary’s pregnancy?
- What might be challenging about her pregnancy?
- How does Mary feel about carrying Jesus in her womb?
Share that Mary sings a song about God after telling Elizabeth about her pregnancy. There is an Advent hymn that recounts Mary’s words called “The Canticle of the Turning.”
Play “The Canticle of the Turning” for the children. You may choose to play and project 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. If you would like, you can ask the children to sing along with the video.
After listening to the song, ask the children:
- What does Mary say about God in this song?
- Where do you see joy in the song?
Connecting to the song
Help the children connect to the song through one or more of these activities.
- Our souls cry out with a joyful shout: Gather the materials you’ll need for this activity: copies of speech bubble templates and crayons or markers. Replay the first verse of “The Canticle of the Turning.” Note that Mary tells us that she will be singing with joy about God’s greatness. Tell the children that we also experience God’s greatness. Hand each child a speech bubble template. Ask them to write or draw pictures of the ways they experience God that make them feel joyful. If they have difficulty coming up with ideas, the group can brainstorm a list before they begin their individual work. Have each child share their creation so that the group can see the wide range of ways we joyfully experience God.
- Joy and justice: Gather the materials you’ll need for this activity: a copy of Holy Troublemakers and Unconventional Saints by Daneen Akers or access to videos of some of the passages from the book (see list above). If you’re using the video readings, you’ll also want to have a computer with Internet access connected to a television or data projector. Have the children wonder about how people might experience joy when they are being mistreated or are without what they need to live full lives. Note that joy can come when there are people in their communities working to bring justice—to make sure all are treated like God’s beloved children. There are many people throughout history who have brought joy by doing this type of work. Read one or more of the profiles of social justice leaders in Holy Troublemakers and Unconventional Saints or show one or more of the videos of readings listed above. After reading or viewing, ask the children to share how the person brought joy to the communities they were working in and for. Also, have them reflect on the role that their faith played in their work.
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