Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Second Sunday of Advent

Hi Godly Play Teachers!
Welcome to the celebration of the Second Sunday of Advent, this Sunday, Dec 4.

This Sunday we move to the second card in the Advent Godly Play series, focusing on Mary and Joseph's journey (don't forget the donkey!) to Bethlehem.

There are several themes to explore during the time in the circle or during the create-a-gift-for-God time, if you so wish. These include:

1. Mary as the chosen mother of Jesus. Why did God choose her? What does it mean to be in favor with God?

2. Mary's reaction to Gabriel's news. The older children might enjoy really studying her reaction found in Luke, Chapter 1. You could even listen to The Magnificat.

3. The idea that God gives us courage and help to do what we need to do if we ask for it.

4. The idea of being part of God's work in the world. How can each person do that? Can we look for ways to do God's work? Be open to responding to God's nudges?

5. Nothing is impossible for God. (What a great memory verse! Luke 1:37.)

So how do we help the children explore the story and these themes? Here are some ideas for the Create-a-Gift-for-God-Time to add to your own.

Recreating the Story as a Gift to God
Children would enjoy exploring the story and recreating it in some way, both the visit of Gabriel to Mary and Mary and Joseph's journey to Bethlehem.
1. Put up several big easels and let the children paint the angel's visit or the journey. (I bet older kids would like this too. They seldom get to paint on big easels anymore.  You could even look at some famous artwork of Mary and baby Jesus.
2. Use watercolors at the tables to paint either scene.
3. Make "life-size angels!" (Who knows how big angels are!)  Use big pieces of butcher paper and have kids lie down and trace each other, sort of like making snow angels. Decorate with markers or paint or fabric.

4. Make an angel from a paper plate. Let the children choose as much as possible how they want to decorate. (Prescribed crafts limit their investment / idea of owning their own work, so the more choices, the better.) You can find instructions for a paper plate angel here.

5. Recreate the story by acting it out. We have costumes for the younger children. Let me know ASAP if you want to use them and I can make sure they're available. There's a great video made by a group of children posted here. You could use that for inspiration if you like. The kids would enjoy watching it. If you decide to do this, I hope you can video it! Maybe a parent could help.

6. Make ornaments for Gabriel, Mary, Joseph, and the Donkey!
There are tons of ornaments out there for angels. Here's a pic of one that one of my kids made out of a clothespin and felt.

I bet the children could figure out how to make ornaments for the other characters out of clothespins and fabric or tissue paper.

I hope the ideas help!

Here are the Wondering Questions I've written for this Sunday. I look forward to hearing the children's responses!
1. I wonder what your favorite part of the story is so far.

2. I wonder how Mary felt when Gabriel appeared before her and when she heard the news.
I wonder how she felt on the journey to Bethlehem and how Joseph felt. And the donkey too!

3. I wonder what we can learn from Mary and Joseph and the decisions they made from this story. What do they teach us about God?

4. I wonder where you are in this story. What part of this story is about you?

5. I wonder if you and I might be part of this story in a way, on our own way to Bethlehem.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The First Sunday of Advent

Hi Godly Play Teachers!
Welcome to the celebration of the First Sunday of Advent, this Sunday, November 27.

What an exciting time of year!
This Sunday we focus on getting ready to enter the mystery of Christmas. It's perfect timing then for us to focus on the prophets' telling that something big was about to happen in Bethlehem. The people didn't know exactly what or when, but they were told to get ready, to watch and wait.

Our Godly Play lesson begins with a discussion of the color change at church to purple, the color of kings. It's a great time to talk about what kind of king the people expected, and how God surprised them all.

One thing to note: the Godly Play Advent lessons don't come with wondering questions at the end. I think it's so helpful to have some discussion questions to let the children process their thoughts on the lessons, so I've included some of my own questions for this Sunday at the bottom of this blog post. I've put copies of these for the storyteller and the person writing the responses in each of your classrooms.

Making a Gift for God
When it comes time to help the children decide what work they want to do--what kind of gift to God they want to make in appreciation for the story, there are several paths they can take, each exploring different themes to the lesson.
Some of the themes include:
1. The theme of Advent--getting ready.
2. The theme of who prophets are and what did they do and say.
3. The idea of Jesus being a light to the world. (Since we light candles each week in Advent)

Here are some "Gift to God" ideas to add to your own:
For exploring Advent...
1. Make an advent wreath together, or have each child make his own. You could do this three dimensionally, with quick drying clay and candles (why not collect greenery to add to it? or pinecones, etc) or two dimensionally, out of construction paper. (If you'd like more direction, look here.)
 2. Make an advent chain. Have the children cut out 25 strips of paper each and (using tape or staples) make them into a chain. They could even put a task to do on each ("sing Away in the Manger," or "read the Christmas story" or "draw an angel," etc.) and each day in December the child would take off one link in the chain. This is a great way to illustrate waiting and getting ready for Christmas.

For exploring the Prophets...
1. Let the children look up some of the verses in which the prophets predict Jesus' birth or a leader coming out of Bethlehem.
Verses include:
"But you, Bethlehem in Ephrathah, small as you are to be among Judah's clans, out of you shall come forth a governor for Israel, one whose roots are far back in the past, in days gone by." -Micah 5:2

King Herod called a meeting of the chief priests and lawyers of the Jewish people, and asked them: "Where is the Messiah to be born?" "At Bethlehem in Judaea", they replied; and they referred him to the prophecy which reads: "Bethlehem in the land of Judah, you are far from least in the eyes of the rulers of Judah; for out of you shall come a leader to be the shepherd of my people Israel." Matthew 2:1-6 - NEB

"Surely the Messiah is not to come from Galilee? Does not scripture say that the Messiah is to be of the family of David, from David's village of Bethlehem?" John 7:41,42 - NEB

Isaiah 7:14. "Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign, Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel."

2. The children might want to make a model like the one we use of Bethlehem. They could use their own ideas of what Bethlehem might have looked like, or they could use books to research it.

3. Another option would be for the kids to divide a paper in half (or a mural on butcher paper.)  It could be titled something like, "A King Is Coming..." On one side they could draw or list what people expected the king to look like, and on the other side they could draw a manger scene with Baby Jesus.

For exploring Jesus as the Light of the Word,  the children could make candle cookies like this one here.

Susan D'Amato had our fourth graders do this one year and they loved it.
The directions are here. (http://familyfun.go.com/recipes/a-light-dessert-800789/)

Here are the wondering questions I've come up with for this week's lesson. Enjoy!

1. I wonder about getting ready. I wonder what your family does to get ready to celebrate Christmas.
2.   2.  I wonder if there are special things you might do at your house to remember what Christmas is really all about.
3.   3. The prophets told the people of God that a new king was coming. I wonder what you think they expected. What kind of king do you think they thought he would be?
4.   4. I wonder what you think about why God sent Jesus as a baby. 
5.   5. In our time together today, we talked about how prophets know the most important things and show the  way. I wonder what it’s like to be a prophet.
6.   6.  I wonder how God feels about God’s prophets.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Exile and Return

Hi Godly Play Teachers!
Welcome to the Exile and Return, the Godly Play story scheduled for this Sunday, November 20.

Last week we shared the story of the ark and the temple, and talked about meeting God in a special place and honoring him with certain routines that both honored God and helped remind the worshipers of the sacredness of being close to God. 

At the end of the lesson, we read Solomon's prayer of dedication of the Temple, where he prays, "But God, will you really live here with us on earth? The whole sky and the highest heaven cannot contain you. Certainly this Temple that I built cannot contain you either..." This week, we think about this again as we learn about what happened when God's people were taken away from Jerusalem and its temple, which they had believed to be God's home.

Some themes to explore:
* Where do we find God? What if we suddenly have no temple or tabernacle or special routines or things to honor God? Can we still meet God?

*What do we do when we're very afraid, when bad things happen to us? What do we pray for? What does God want us to do?

*What does it mean to be homesick? What were God's people homesick for during the story? Were they homesick for God?

*What changes have you been through that have been hard or scary for you? What did you do? Who gave you help? What should we remember when those times come?

*What does it mean to be faithful? How is it different to be faithful in hard times versus in easy times?

Some activity ideas to add to your own, to help children make a gift to God in thanks for the story: 
Reproduce the story.
1. Children could make their own physical elements of the Godly Play story, with blue yarn for the rivers. (Or maybe they can think of another way to represent them.) Pieces of wood for the cities. Can they make a chain out of pipe cleaners or strips of paper? (While they do this, teachers can talk about what the chain means--what it means to be in exile.) What could they use to make the people of God?
The second graders' "Chain of Exile"
2. Children could draw or paint with watercolors a scene from the story: the destruction of the temple, the sad journey away from Jerusalem, the happy rebuilding of the temple.

3. Older children could use markers to trace the path of God's people on a photocopied map. Could they make a map of their own? One for the class?

4. Children could use colored sand to make a desert scene.

Explore themes from the story.
1. Children could take a large sheet of paper, divide it down the center into 2 parts, label the left side Times We Are Sad Or Scared, and the other side What We Can Do. Then the children can draw or paint pictures to illustrate both sides.

2. Children could draw or paint or do a collage on the subject of Where and When I Meet God Today. Is it in nature? In church? At home reading the Bible? Being with friends? This would be a great addition for our new bulletin board. This could also be done as a class project on butcher paper (like a mural.)

3. What does it mean to be faithful?
Children could make a collage or drawing or mural showing what it means to be faithful to God. Does it mean coming to church and worshiping together? Bringing an offering? Praying? Trusting? What else?

4. Children could draw or write about a time they were homesick. What helped them get through it? What would God want us to do when we feel homesick?

Some great verses to get children thinking:

“We sat down and cried by the rivers of Babylon when
we remembered Zion. How can we sing the song of the
Lord in a strange land?”
(Psalm 137:1, 4)

“Praise the Lord, all nations! Praise Him all people! For
His loving-kindness toward us is great. And the truth of
the Lord lasts forever. Praise the Lord.”
(Psalm 117)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Ark and the Temple

Hi Godly Play Teachers!
Welcome to the Ark and the Temple, the Godly Play story scheduled for this Sunday, November 13.

For a girl who could spend days moving furniture and little people around a dollhouse, I simply adore this lesson! I also love it because it explores the idea of God's abiding presence and helps us question exactly where God is. Where can we meet God? If it is in a church or temple, how do we keep that space sacred? If God truly meets us everywhere, anywhere, then what does that say about the sacredness of the space we occupy in our everyday lives? Which makes me think of a favorite song of mine, but that's another story. (Go here, if you want a treat!)

This story works wonderfully as a continuation of last week's story, The Ark and the Tent. Before, the people took the tent with them as they traveled, and learned that God goes with them wherever they go. Now, the people have settled and learn that God is not only present during times of transition but in ordinary times of daily life.

Another interesting theme to address is the idea of the usefulness of things in the worship of God. When the ark and the commandments were taken during battle and they didn't physically have them in the tent, were they really lost? When King David returned them, dancing into Jerusalem, what was he really celebrating?

Another very important theme to cover is that there is no physical place that can contain God. I'll have Solomon's temple dedication prayer typed up and in your room by Wednesday night this week. If you'd like to make it into a scroll to read during the lesson, as the script suggests, feel free. I believe we have some dowel sticks in the resource room. Balling up the paper and staining it with tea makes it look older and makes for a more dramatic presentation, if you like.

One other thing I didn't mention last week was the idea of making/offering sacrifices. Do we still offer sacrifices to God today? What kinds of sacrifices would God love? What kinds are important and why?

Some activity ideas to add to your own...

Pieces of the temple
A few of the classes began last week making special parts of the temple/tent. You could continue that this week, and you could even set up the items in a temple of your own making.  Kids could make an ark, the ten commandments, a table with 12 pieces of bread, a menorah, a laver, and an altar. (See all the ideas and photos here.)

*Cindy has incense in the fifth grade room for your kids to experience if you'd like to. 
Visit the temple
Also, remember that the fives class constructed a temple over a period of weeks last year. It might be fun to go visit it (in the last room on the left of the hall.) Could your class reinact the temple dedication? Or place your menorah, insense burner, table of bread, and ark of the covenant inside. Does it have a laver (bowl to wash hands) or an altar for the offering of sacrifices?

Make a temple
Could we make a temple out of a shoe box? (I've got several, let me know if you want them.) Or maybe draw a temple? Make one out of lego? (There's plenty of lego in the resource room.)

Make a scroll with Solomon's Prayer
Depending on the age of the children, you could have them copy the prayer (or use a preprinted version), ball it up and then smooth it out, dye it with tea, and attach dowel sticks.

Research and draw/paint a priest in Solomon's temple
I've got a good book that illustrates the kinds of garments priests of that time wore. Some children might enjoy discovering that and reproducing it in some way.

Have fun with the lesson, y'all! And please take photos if you want. I'll have a camera in my office to borrow.
Thank you for all you do!