Week 4: December 20, 2020—Waiting on the Threshold
2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16 & Luke 1:26-38
Note to the Teacher
It is the fourth Sunday of Advent, and students have probably wrapped up their academic schedule before the Christmas holiday. Christmas itself now takes center stage. The joys and challenges of family members who have come home may conflict with the sorrows of family unable to join in Christmas celebrations and traditions this year due to travel restrictions or other reasons. Advent encourages us to anticipate the coming of Christ. During Christmas Eve worship services, we relive the arrival of the Messiah as a human child. Every year, it seems that we sit on the threshold of a new world where love for our neighbors and ourselves is transformative because of our love for God. Understanding Jesus as Emmanuel (God with us) grounds our spirituality in a human experience. We need to share the vision of a world where relationships and all of humanity are transformed because God walked among us in the flesh. What does it mean for Christ to take up residence in our world? What did it mean 2,000 years ago, and what does it mean now?
1. Ice Breaker: Building a (Stable) Stable (10 minutes)
The stable is a traditional image of the nativity, with people and animals gathered under a simple lean-to, or even a barn. The challenge in this activity to create a nativity with at least three human characters, five animals, a manger, and a stable that can remain balanced on top of various not-so-stable foundations. These nativities can be built out of whatever is on hand, so think about aluminum foil, paper, cardboard, etc. Get creative with materials! The point is that Jesus was born into an unstable time, with Romans occupying and governing from Jerusalem and Jewish people looking for a Messiah to overthrow the current order and bring about God’s promised reality.
Pre-make the not-so-stable foundations out of ping pong balls, gumdrops/marshmallows and toothpicks, play sand, a bunch of round cereal in a bin, or other creative materials. Instruct students to take about 5 minutes to quickly create and balance their nativity on top of their assigned foundation. Bonus points for writing words of welcome to the baby, or including scripture in some way! The nativities must be built atop these unstable foundations! They cannot be resting directly on solid objects like the floor or tabletops.
After the stables are created, make sure to ensure everyone can see each nativity. Then talk a bit about the instability and forces at play during the time and in the place where Jesus was born. (Romans as an occupying military force, varieties of Jewish leadership structures and groups fighting back or accepting Roman rule, a history of Jewish rebellions, etc.) As you discuss, show how easy it is to knock over the stables by bumping into the tables they sit on, shaking them a little, blowing on them, etc. Congratulate all, especially those who were able to make a the most “stable” stable.
Online Meeting Adaptation: Invite students to create a desktop nativity stable using cereal boxes, paper, or other supplies from around the home. Discuss the difficulty of stability using flimsy materials. Another option would be to look up “The 77 Weirdest Nativities” identified by the Youth Cartel, and have youth discuss ones that they love, really dislike, or just don’t understand. Discuss which ones may be prove that you, yourself are a stable human being if a stranger was to walk into your home and find one of these nativities.
2. Read Scripture (5 minutes)
Invite Students to help you read if possible
Today, our Scripture reading comes from both the Old Testament (2 Samuel) and the New Testament (Luke). We are using scripture passages from the Old and New Testaments during this six-session series.
3. Discussion (15 minutes)
What would you do if an angel spoke to you? Remember our news-segment activity from a few weeks ago? What elements of the story from Luke would seem unbelievable when first heard? Would people think that you are a “stable” person if you were to go around sharing about conversations you’ve had with angels? Why or why not?
In Second Samuel, why did the Lord say, “Are you the one to build me a house to live in?” What might this help us understand about the instability in the part of the world where Jesus was born over 2,000 years ago?
Reading Samuel, where do you think the physical location of the house that the Lord will live in would be? In Luke, has that house been established? If so, where?
Which do you think is more stable, God having a physical building to dwell within on Earth, or God, the Holy Spirit, or Jesus dwelling in our hearts? Why?
4. Activity and Discussion (20 minutes)
Take this lesson to the next level by getting students involved with the scriptures using the following activity. Re-read 2 Samuel 7:1-11. Invite students to listen to the scripture for things that smell or have a scent: cedar, pasture, and others. Finally, re-read the passage one verse at a time and ask students to share what they smell in each verse. Tell them detail what cedar or the pasture might smell like. If it probably smelled bad, then allow the students to express that.
If you are meeting in person, prepare cups of scent for each student: one with grass and soil; another with cedar; another with burlap to represent a tent. Invite them to bring the different cups to their nose and smell the different smells as you read the passage.
How do these scents compare with the scents that we normally associate with the Christmas?
What are the smells that remind you of Christmas in your traditions?
Online Meeting Adaptation: Students meeting online could gather things with scents that remind them of Christmas and compare those scents to those listed in scripture.
- What smells surprised you?
- Did those smells have other memories associated with them from your life?
- How did the smells connect your memories to the Bible in interesting or surprising ways?
- Smell has a unique way of reinforcing our memories or feelings, effectively making them more stable and longer lasting. Does your world feel stable as we prepare to celebrate the arrival of Jesus as a baby on Christmas Day?
Total Length of Week 3 (50 minutes)
- Computer with speakers or TV
- Bible to read scripture
- Marker, crayons or colored pencils
- Duct tape