Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Epiphany or the Dedication of Baby Jesus to God

Hi Godly Play Teachers!
Welcome to the celebration of Epiphany Sunday, January 4! I hope your 2015 will soon be off to a wonderful start. This Sunday you can choose whether to present the Epiphany story or the story of the Dedication of Jesus to God. I'm including both in this blog post.


Although we have had a Sunday already to focus on the visit of  the Magi, this Sunday is a great time to talk in more depth--and to help children understand what Epiphany really celebrates. As you teach the lesson as is written in the book, I hope you'll have time to light the frankincense and myrrh, discuss the significance and meaning of each one, and let the children compare the scents. They won't forget this! If you have any experience with being at a worship service when incense was used, I hope you'll share it. Also, you might like to add that we still have a star of sorts on our own journey to discover who Jesus is: the scriptures in the Bible which share the words he said and the things he did.

As you know, on Epiphany, we celebrate that Jesus was born not just for the Jewish people but for the Gentiles as well (such as the Magi.) The children may need help realizing what a big deal this is.  Epiphany also commemorates the dedication of Jesus in the temple with Simeon. (Luke 2:21-38) This is not in the Godly Play script, so the children may not know this story. What a great time to share it! Especially since most of them have been dedicated in our church or have seen a baby dedication.  You could follow the script with a retelling of this story.

Since there are so many different ways you could go in this lesson, I'm not going to give you wondering questions. If you use the Epiphany lesson, I hope you'll come up with your own questions to get the children thinking and deepen their thought process. I'd love it if a teacher could write down any comments the children make during this wondering time that I could share with their parents. I'll put a sheet of paper in your class folder for this.

Hints for the Create-a-gift-for-God time:
1. Did you use any of the art ideas for the last lesson (last blog post)? If not, you could use offer any of those ideas.  Children particularly enjoy making the crowns--and they will have seen crowns in action in the game room, since they're part of the French King's cake custom.

2. You could also have the children recreate Jesus's dedication in the temple, either by drawing or painting it with watercolors. A child could make a baby Jesus 3 dimensionally with clay or clothespins and other children could make the parents and the temple.

Baby Jesus Is Dedicated to God

Hopefully this story will help the children understand Jesus' dedication in the Temple as well as explore the way they were dedicated to God at our church when they were babies. The Bible story comes from Luke 2:21-39.
If you teach Godly Play at a different church, this lesson might work for you too. You just may need to adjust the second part of the lesson to fit your church's traditions. 

The story basket contains: a swaddled Baby Jesus, a pair of doves, 2 figures for Simeon and Anna, a rose, a bell, a New Testament, a copy of our dedication blessing, a hand mirror, and the felt underlay.

Here's the story script, with instructions to the storyteller in red:

At Christmas we celebrated the good news that God sent Baby Jesus into the world.

Place Baby Jesus on the underlay.

 Joseph and Mary celebrated too when Jesus was born, and forty days later it was time to celebrate again. Back in Jesus’ time, forty days after a mom and dad had their first boy baby, they took him to the big temple in Jerusalem and dedicated him to God. Jesus was Mary and Joseph’s first boy, and they wanted to dedicate him to God too. So off to the Temple they went, Mary and Joseph and little Baby Jesus.

Just like all the other families, they took with them a pair of doves or young pigeons to give to God as a gift.

Place pair of birds on the underlay.

They didn’t know that something special was going to happen that day, something that had never  happened with other families.

There was a good man living in Jerusalem who loved God very much. His name was Simeon, and he was sure that one day God would send someone to change everything and save the people of Israel. This man’s name was Simeon.  God had promised Simeon that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah, the special person God would send.

Place Simeon, a figure of a person, on the underlay.

God told Simeon to go to the temple that day. When Mary and Joseph brought Jesus in, Simeon took Baby Jesus in his arms and knew that this was the Messiah, the special person God had sent to change everything. As he held Baby Jesus, he thanked God for him and prayed something like, “God you’ve done it! Now that I’ve seen him with my own eyes I can be at peace.”

Mary and Joseph were amazed at what Simeon said. They hardly knew what to think!

Then Simeon said to Mary that Jesus would save Israel. He also told her some strange, sad things. He said that many people would speak out against Jesus. He told her that what would happen in Jesus’ life would break her heart.

There was another person in the temple who noticed Jesus too. Her name was Anna, and she was a very old prophet, 84 years old.

Place Anna, a figure of a person, on the underlay.

Anna loved God so much that she never left the Temple. She was so close to God and God was so close to her that she knew what was important.  She saw Simeon holding Jesus and she knew how special Jesus was. She gave thanks to God and then told everyone that Jesus was the one who would change everything.

What an amazing day at the temple!

Jesus was dedicated to God. Now he did the important work of growing into a little boy and then a young man.

Did you know that people still go to church to dedicate babies to God? Different churches do it differently.

If you were a baby at First Baptist, we did some special things to celebrate when you were born.

On the Sunday after a baby is born, we put a rose on the baptistery and tell the church about the baby in worship.

Place a rose on the underlay.

We also set a special time with each family and ring the bells to celebrate the baby’s birth.

Place a bell on the underlay.

We have a special time in worship where the babies are dedicated to God. The families bring the babies in, we introduce each baby to the whole church, and we give them a little Bible with their name on it.

Place a Bible on the underlay.

Then everyone in the church reads a promise to God, to help take care of the baby and teach her or him about God.

(Read the promise together if you want. You could have the children read the parents’ part if you like)

Then we ask God to bless the babies.

Place the blessing on the underlay and then begin to read the blessing:

            You were created by God in God’s image

Put a mirror on the underlay. Read the rest of the blessing, stopping to explain what it means when needed.

You are a child of God. Because you belong among us we promise to nurture you in the hope that one day, you will affirm the Christian faith for yourself and grown to be a partner with God, participating in the care and continuance of God’s good creation. Amen. May God bless you all.

Wondering Questions:
I wonder if you were dedicated here at First Baptist or at another church.
I wonder what is your favorite part of the dedication of babies at our church.
I wonder what is your favorite part of the story of Jesus’ dedication to God in the Temple.
I wonder what Mary and Joseph thought when Simeon said that their baby Jesus was the person who would save Israel.
 I wonder what they thought Jesus might do.
I wonder what Mary thought when Simeon told her that what happened to her son would break her heart.
I wonder what Anna thought when she first saw Jesus.
I wonder what part of this story is about you.
I wonder what this story is teaching you about God and what God is like.

For teachers of older children (4th and 5th grades):

I thought about including in the lesson for the older children (4th and 5th grades) a clarification about the timing of all the events- the presentation in the Temple, then the visit of the Magi, then the escape to Egypt, then the return to Nazareth, but since I included the part about baby dedication at FBC, it would make the circle time a little long. Still, feel welcome to add that if you want to. It is something the kids (and adults!) get confused by, since we present the Magi in with the Christmas story.

Ideas for Creating a Gift for God Time (Art Response):

There are many ways the children could go to respond to this story, either focusing on Jesus' dedication or there own. Both are important. Children love getting to choose which way they want to respond and what particularly they want to do.

Ideas to respond to the story of the dedication of Jesus:
1.  Make puppets of Simeon and Anna out of socks or paper bags or tongue depressors and paper. There are general directions for making all sorts of puppets here. You could also make ones for Mary and Joseph and Baby Jesus.
2. Act out the Bible story. (Be sure to video!) I'll have a baby doll or two on hand in the activity room for anyone to borrow.
3. Make a pair of doves, as shown in various ways here.
4. Make a collage of gifts we can give to God
5. Simeon and Anna became close to God through constant prayer. One symbol of prayer is the pretzel (which represents arms crossed in prayer, as people did long ago.) Make a pretzel necklace, as shown here. (Scroll down to p.11)
6. Make a temple out of blocks (First grade has blocks in the Rubbermaid containers near their story circle.
7. Draw the scene in the temple of Baby Jesus in Simeon's arms, or Mary and Joseph with Anna.

Ideas to respond to the story of the dedication of babies at our church:
1. Have the children draw themselves as babies with their parents, and then draw themselves now with their families. 
2. The children can make a self portrait and title it with a line from the blessing: "I am (child's name), a child of God" or "God made me!"
3. Help the children think about how our church takes care of them. They could make a collage or drawing of the ways we do it: holding them, feeding them, reading to them in the nursery, teaching them about God and Jesus, reading Bible stories to them, teaching them songs in choir, teaching them about missions and sharing God's love, etc.
4. What does it mean to be a partner with God, taking care of God's creation? Children could make a collage or mural about that, cutting out pictures or drawing ways we take care of God's creation: taking care of the earth, taking care of each other, etc.
5. Make a class collage of pictures of babies for your classroom. Have the children come up with a title having to do with dedicating our children to God. Discuss what that means.
6. Make a bell, as shown here or here,  or a rose as shown here or here.

 Have a great Sunday!

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Fourth Sunday of Advent

Hi Godly Play Teachers!
Welcome to the celebration of the Fourth Sunday of Advent, this Sunday, December 21.

This Sunday we introduce the fourth advent card, focusing on the visit of the Magi to the Christ child.
There are several themes you may wish to explore during the time in the circle or during the create-a-gift-for-God time. These include:
1. The idea that not only did the poor, uneducated shepherds go to see the baby, but so did the Magi -- men so wise that people thought they were magic.

2. The idea of God providing a wild star for the Magi to follow.

3. The significance of the three gifts for Jesus. (Since we won't be giving the Epiphany lesson this year, you may want to go ahead and share the details normally shared in the Epiphany lesson, studying gold (for a king,) frankincense (used for worship,) and myrrh (burned at funerals.) What is the significance of these three gifts in Jesus' life?

4. The interaction between the Magi and King Herod.

Ideas to Inspire Children for their Gifts to God
There are several areas of focus for their gift-to-God making:
The Wild Star
 1. Make a three dimensional star, as is shown here or here (directions included)
 2. Make a star out of Popsicle sticks shown here. The children could cover it with sparkly sequins. (There are some on our art cart.)

The Kings
 3. Make crown ornaments for the tree, as are shown here.  (Directions included.)
 4. Make present ornaments by wrapping boxes in wrapping paper, as you talk about the wise men's gifts.
The Entire Nativity Scene
Recreate the manger scene in its entirety as a group project. Help the children choose which figure each one can make and take a photo of them all together.
There are lots of ways you can do this...
1. With crushed candy, as with the directions here.

2. With Little Debbie gingerbread men and icing and sprinkles, etc.

3. With clay--either quick dry or modelling clay.

4. With Dixie cups and big wooden beads or polystyrene balls, as is shown here.

5. Paint or use markers on butcher paper, assigning each child a figure to contribute. Or have watercolors available for children to paint their own nativity scene.

Wondering Questions:
1. I wonder what is your favorite part of the story.
2. I wonder what the wise men thought when they saw the wild star that didn't behave as any other star they'd ever known. I wonder what questions they asked themselves about it.
3. The gifts the wise men brought were unusual for a baby. I wonder what Mary and Joseph thought about the gifts. I wonder what questions they asked themselves about the gifts.
4. I wonder what the wise men said to each other as they followed the star.
5. I wonder what King Herod thought to himself when he heard about the baby from the Magi.
6. I wonder what message God is giving you about yourself through this story.

Thanks, y'all! And Merry Christmas to you!
Love, Becky

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Third Sunday of Advent

Hi Godly Play Teachers!
Welcome to the celebration of the Third Sunday of Advent, this Sunday, December 14.

This Sunday we introduce the third advent card, focusing on the angels' visit to the shepherds and the angels' song of Good News.

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

1.The shepherds were the first people, besides Mary and Joseph and family, to be told of the Good News. What does it mean about God that they were the ones told first?
2. The angels' message itself: Don't be afraid. We bring tidings of great joy: Peace on earth and good will to everyone. A child is born. Go see the child who will change everything. How would he change everything?
3. The shepherds' response to the angels' message. They chose to do what the angels said. Don't you wonder what they were thinking?

Ideas to Inspire Children for their Gifts to God
Flickr photo by Big 3 News
1. Make a mural of a host of angels. There is butcher available. The children could paint the mural if you're feeling adventurous, (the kids would LOVE it) or use markers or watercolors. How many angels could we fit on the mural? I wonder if all the angels looked the same or if they were different.

The mural could include a hillside with shepherds and sheep, or just be focused on the angels.

Flickr photo by rusty.grass
2. We could make ornaments of angels or lambs or shepherds.
The angels could be made from clothespins and felt or tissue paper, (see last week's lesson.) The shepherds could be done in a similar way, with felt or tissue paper for clothes. Use sharpies to make the faces and yarn or whatever the kids want for the hair.

Or, if you don't want to use clothespins, check out these sites for more ideas (keeping in mind that the more choices you give the children in directing and making their work, the more invested and excited they'll be about it):

3. Angel ornament ideas

 4. Lamb ornament ideas

5. Could you make an entire nativity scene from clothespin people? Or cut out from paper?

What about a mural of the scene? How about a (child) life size one to hang in your Sunday school room or on a bulletin board?

It's wonderful when children come up with their own original ideas. Here a young lady thought about how we're all on our own road to Bethlehem and decided to make her own 3D map. 
 If you look from left to right you see an angel, some mountains, the great star and the moon, as well as an arrow in the road, pointing to a "G" which stands for God.

Flickr photo by ihateyourstinkinguts
6. You could also focus on the song the angels sang and make some music of your own. Make musical instruments and sing Christmas carols and play the instruments. Make sure somebody videotapes this! :)
Here's a site that tells how to make 9 different instruments:
Here's another site with a few other ideas on instruments:

I hope this helps! 

Oops, almost forgot the wondering questions!
Here are some questions to help the children process and internalize the story:
1. I wonder what your favorite part of the story was today.
2. I wonder why you think God chose the shepherds to hear the good news first.

3. I wonder how the shepherds felt when the angels appeared and sang.

4. I wonder what the shepherds thought about as they made their way to see Baby Jesus?

5. I wonder where you are in today's story? I wonder what message God has for you?

*All photos used courtesy of the Creative Commons agreement  Thank you, photographers!


Monday, December 1, 2014

The Second Sunday of Advent

Hi Godly Play Teachers!
Welcome to the celebration of the Second Sunday of Advent, this Sunday, Dec 7.

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.

Or make angels from beads, like our first graders did a couple years ago.

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