Give You a Sign

An Advent Song of Ascents

Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year A

This is odd, isn’t it? The last Sunday of Advent, yet there is a whole week until Christmas. May this extra time allow us a little breathing space to listen to Isaiah and to Matthew before we rush off to the exuberance and extravagance of Christmas.

Fourth Sunday of Advent – Give You a Sign

December 18, 2022; Matthew 1:20-23, New International Reader's Version

20But as Joseph was thinking about this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. The angel said, “Joseph, son of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary home as your wife. The baby inside her is from the Holy Spirit. 21She is going to have a son. You must give him the name Jesus. That’s because he will save his people from their sins.”

22All this took place to bring about what the Lord had said would happen. He had said through the prophet, 23“The virgin is going to have a baby. She will give birth to a son. And he will be called Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14) The name Immanuel means “God with us.”

New International Reader's Version (NIRV) Copyright © 1995, 1996, 1998, 2014 by Biblica, Inc.®. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Board game:



We are getting really, really, close. Do you know what we are getting really close to? (Allow children to answer.) That’s right, we are getting close to Christmas morning. There is only one week left.

Did anyone have a chance to play Box of Lies this past week? More important, did you remember to put your full trust in God? Can you give me an example of how you trusted God this week? (Allow one or two children to provide examples of how they put trust in God.)

Those are all excellent ways to remind us to completely trust God in all things.

I have another question: “Do any of you like to build things” (Pause for children to respond.) Today’s scripture passage is about a man named Joseph. Joseph was a carpenter. Some say he worked with bricks. Joseph certainly liked to build things using tools such as a hammer and a saw. He was very good working with his hands. (You could have an actual hammer and saw to reinforce the imagery.) It is a wonderful feeling when you build something, isn’t it?

Today’s game is a fun game that gives us the opportunity to build something. Have you ever played the game Jenga? (Allow children to provide examples of playing the game.)

Jenga is a game that allows players to build a tower. The taller players build the tower without its falling over, the better the players have done in the game. To play the game, you first build the tower. It normally comes “built” when you take it out of the box. Once the tower is built, the person who stacked the tower plays first. The first player takes one block on his/her turn from any level of the tower and places it on the topmost level to complete that level.

Players may use only one hand at a time; either hand may be used, but only one hand may touch the tower at any time.

Players may tap a block to find a loose one. Any blocks moved but not played should be replaced, unless doing so would make the tower fall. The turn ends when the next player touches the tower, or after ten seconds, whichever occurs first.

The game ends when the tower falls—completely—or if any block falls from the tower.

The loser is the person who made the tower fall (that is, the person whose turn it was when the tower fell).

I want to play this game with a twist. Before we start removing pieces, we must first build the tower. As we do, I want to add a piece-by-piece story from our Bible passage.

Today’s Bible passage is from the Gospel of Matthew.

(You can either build the Jenga tower yourself; or, if you have enough children, give them each a block to have them help build the tower.)

Each time I tell a piece of this Bible story, let’s build the tower before we play a game of Jenga.

Joseph daydreamed about his bride-to-be, Mary. Add a block.

He said to himself, “I have a plan. Someday I plan to marry her.” Add a block.

Then I plan that later we will start a family and have children. Add a block.

Then, because I am a carpenter, I plan to build a house for us. Add a block.

Much later, my home will be filled with laughter and maybe even board games. Add a block.

Mary will bake my favorite bread. Add a block.

I will hug her and the children every morning when I wake up. Add a block.

I will tell bedtime stories every night to the kids. Add a block.

Joseph would then put down his tools and give a happy sigh. Add a block.

Oh, Joseph had plans for sure! Add a block.

Until one day, when Mary came to see Joseph. Mary told Joseph that she was having a baby and that it was God’s child. With that news, all of Joseph’s plans came tumbling down around him. (As you place the next Jenga piece on the tower, force it to fall, leaving the pieces lying scattered.)

Joseph couldn’t believe this. His plans changed. “No, this can’t be happening,” he said. “This isn’t part of the plan. God, what are you doing? Why is this happening? I thought you had plans for me, for my future!” Joseph was very confused. Lying alone in bed, he tossed and turned all night, wondering what he should do next. “Why God? I am scared. I am sad. I am confused.” Finally, Joseph fell asleep.

In the middle of the night. Joseph felt the touch of an angel on his shoulder. The angel told him to not be afraid and that Mary’s child was the Son of God. The child was no ordinary child. The angel told him to name his son Jesus because the child would save God’s people.

Joseph then remembered the words of Isaiah the prophet. Remember him? It was written in the Old Testament that the child should be called Immanuel, which means God with us.

The next morning Joseph went to tell Mary about the dream he had that night. He told her about the plan he thought he had, but that God had a better plan.

Mary did give birth to God’s son. They named him Jesus. Perhaps you have heard that part of the story.

Sometimes we think our plans are the best. But God’s plans are even better. (While you are talking, take the scattered Jenga pieces and place them in the shape of a cross. You could even try to create a manger. Be aware that a manger might not be as easy to identify as a cross). What does Immanuel that God is with us really mean? Even when the Jenga pieces crumble around us, we can rest assured that God is with us.

This week, I invite you to play a game of Jenga with your family. When the pieces fall and are scattered all around, take one piece in your hand before you build it back and say this prayer.

Let’s do it now. Each of you take a Jenga piece while I pray. (Hand out pieces of Jenga to each child.)


God of love, trust, and joy, you know the plans you have for us, and those plans are good. Thank you for your wonderful plan of sending Jesus. Remind us each of the reason for this season. That reason is the greatest Christmas gift ever! Jesus, Immanuel, you are with us. Amen.

In This Series...

First Sunday of Advent, Year A - Lectionary Planning Notes Second Sunday of Advent, Year A - Lectionary Planning Notes Third Sunday of Advent, Year A - Lectionary Planning Notes Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year A - Lectionary Planning Notes


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In This Series...

First Sunday of Advent, Year A - Lectionary Planning Notes Second Sunday of Advent, Year A - Lectionary Planning Notes Third Sunday of Advent, Year A - Lectionary Planning Notes Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year A - Lectionary Planning Notes