This Advent series allows us to approach this season with anticipation, with watching and waiting – active waiting. Children spend this time drafting Christmas lists, writing letters to Santa, and maybe even singing a Christmas carol or three.
The season of Advent isn’t really designed to be a countdown to the celebration of Christmas. It is a time of preparation for Christ’s return and the establishment of the kin-dom of God. It is a reminder that we are all heading someplace; we are works in progress; we are longing for something more, children included. That’s the upward and forward call of Advent. We are looking forward.
At the same time, we are looking back. Yes, we are anticipating Incarnation, the time when God became present in an astonishing way. And we look forward to when Emmanuel—God with us—will be how we live always. We remember Christmas with anticipation, wide-eyed like a child as we anticipate in what God is doing.
This series is designed around children’s board games. Each week, the board game will act as an illustration to reinforce the scripture passage. Just as when playing a board game, anticipation builds toward finishing the game. It is recommended that you have “on hand” each week’s particular game. Be aware that some children will not have the referenced games in their homes, so provide illustrations and examples, but don’t stress the need for them to have their families go out and purchase each board game.
First Sunday of Advent – Up to Restoration
November 27, 2022; Isaiah 2:3-5, New International Reader's Version
3People from many nations will go there. They will say,
“Come. Let us go up to the Lord’s mountain.
Let’s go to the temple of Jacob’s God.
He will teach us how we should live.
Then we will live the way he wants us to.”
The law of the Lord will be taught at Zion.
His message will go out from Jerusalem.
4He will judge between the nations.
He’ll settle problems among many of them.
They will hammer their swords into plows.
They’ll hammer their spears into pruning tools.
Nations will not go to war against one another.
They won’t even train to fight anymore.
5People of Jacob, come.
Let us live the way the Lord has taught us to.
Chutes and Ladders
This is the season of Advent. What do you already know about Advent? (Allow children to answer.) Advent is a time of waiting. We are waiting for Christmas, this is true, but Advent is also a time of preparation for Christ’s return and the establishment of the kin-dom of God. It is a reminder that we are all heading someplace; we are longing for something more. And we look forward to when Emmanuel, which means “God with us,” will be how we live always. We are looking forward to Christmas with anticipation; we just can’t wait, but we must wait. We are so excited for Christmas to arrive but waiting allows us to prepare our hearts and minds to celebrate Christmas for the right reasons. Remember Jesus is the reason for the season!
Waiting also reminds me of how I feel when I play a board game. Have you ever played a board game? What are your favorites? (Allow children to offer a few suggestions.) When you play your favorite game, it’s fun; and it is exciting and builds anticipation to see who might win. Looking forward to winning a game with anticipation—sometimes there is so much anticipation that you just can’t wait!
Each week of Advent, I will have a board game to show you. The rules of the game will hopefully remind you of each week’s scripture lesson. Today’s game is Chutes and Ladders. How many of you have played this game before? (Allow children to raise their hands.)
To play Chutes and Ladders, all players start on the “one” square at the bottom of the board. The player that goes first spins the spinner to move the character token. The aim of the game is to be the first player to get to square 100 at the top of the board.
Now, of course, to reach your goal quickly, you’ll want to land on ladders. If you land on the bottom of a ladder, you can climb it; this allows you to take a shortcut and avoid numerous other squares.
The challenge comes when you get to the chutes on the game board! A chute is another word for slide. Have you ever been on a slide? (Allow children to answer). If you land at the top of a chute, you’ll ride it down to the bottom of the board. Eventually, when one player reaches the top square, that player will win, and the game is over!
Today’s scripture passage talks about going up, up, up. The prophet Isaiah shouts, “Come. Let us go up to the Lord’s mountain.” A prophet was someone who hears messages from God and tells those messages to others. Isaiah wanted God’s people to live the way God wanted them to live. He encouraged them to go up to the Lord’s mountain—just like we want to go up in the game Chutes and Ladders.
Sometimes, though, in life, just as in the game, you may hit a chute. When you land on a chute, you fall back down on the game board. Isaiah wants us to become aware of our mistakes, our sins - those times when we fall back down the chute. And we should be thankful for the forgiveness that Jesus offers.
I invite you to play a game of Chutes and Ladders this week with your family. While playing the game, discuss with your family how you feel when you land on a chute and fall back down the game board. How do you feel when you land on a ladder and climb your way to the top toward winning? What does this fun board game teach you about anticipation? How can this game help us anticipate God’s Kingdom? (Allow Children to respond).
God of love and patience: Thank you for the reminder of anticipation found in playing a board game. Thank you for the same reminder of anticipation as we wait during this Advent season. Let us each go up to the Lord’s mountain in the coming weeks. Amen.