Advent is here, and we begin the Christian year anew with a season of waiting. As the days grow darker, we draw closer to the arrival of the Light that turns the world upside down—or right-side up! The journey toward and beyond the manger is one of reversing expectations, encountering what we thought we already knew in brand-new ways, and receiving good news in unexpected places. During this series we journey together as our spirit waits to welcome the Christ child and carry hope, peace, joy, and love as we live as disciples who anticipate the now-and-not-yet kin-dom of God.
This series will offer an opportunity for children (and the entire congregation) to help decorate a Christmas tree in preparation for Christmas Day! Each message will invite you to “add” decorations and lights to a small tree that can be displayed in your worship space. The series will also reinforce our Advent journey of hope, peace, joy, and love.
While each message offers an opportunity to decorate a Christmas tree in preparation for Christmas Day, it also encourages an “Advent Playlist.” Each week, while decorating the tree, play the suggested song on the playlist to reinforce each week’s learning. Encourage children to use this playlist within their family as they prepare for Christmas together.
- A small Christmas tree
- A strand of small soft lights
- A strand of larger twinkling lights
- Purple ribbon
- Cardboard cutout of a dove (or white feathers to put in the tree)
- A strand of blinking tree lights
- Battery-operated tea lights (enough for each child or to surround the base of the tree)
- A strand of red lights
- Heart-shaped cardboard ornaments for each child to place on the tree
- A school yearbook
- A sparkly star to place on top of the tree
Playlist songs include the following:
- “Here I Am to Worship”
- “Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy”
- “Joy to the World”
- “Mary, Did You Know?”
- “Beautiful Star of Bethlehem”
- “Away in the Manger”
- “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”
- “O Come, All Ye Faithful.”
First Sunday of Advent – Our Shocking Hope
Mark 13:24-37. NIRV
24 “So in those days there will be terrible suffering. After that, Scripture says,
26 “At that time people will see the Son of Man coming in clouds. He will come with great power and glory. 27 He will send his angels. He will gather his chosen people from all four directions. He will bring them from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens.
28 “Learn a lesson from the fig tree. As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. 29 In the same way, when you see these things happening, you know that the end is near. It is right at the door. 30 What I’m about to tell you is true. The people living now will certainly not pass away until all those things have happened. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away. But my words will never pass away.
The Day and Hour Are Not Known
32 “But no one knows about that day or hour. Not even the angels in heaven know. The Son does not know. Only the Father knows. 33 Keep watch! Stay awake! You do not know when that time will come. 34 It’s like a man going away. He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge. Each one is given a task to do. He tells the one at the door to keep watch.
35 “So keep watch! You do not know when the owner of the house will come back. It may be in the evening or at midnight. It may be when the rooster crows or at dawn. 36 He may come suddenly. So do not let him find you sleeping. 7 What I say to you, I say to everyone. ‘Watch!’ ”
- Christmas tree
- Purple ribbon
- One strand of small soft lights.
- “Here I Am to Worship.”
Message: Waiting in Hope
Have you ever had to wait for something? Maybe it was a long line to get on a ride at a theme park or into a movie. Have you ever had to wait for dinner when you were really hungry?
I don't particularly like waiting, do you? I don't like it, but I know many times we just must wait. While we are waiting, life continues to go on, and we must find ways to make the best use of our time while we are waiting.
Today is the first Sunday of Advent. Advent means "to come." Do you know what's coming? (Allow children to answer.) That’s right, Christmas is coming. This is an exciting time, but it may also be a difficult time because there is so much waiting. It may seem that we just can’t wait for the day when we can open the gifts under the tree. 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. It is a reminder that we are all on this journey. We are looking forward to something more in life. And we look forward to Emmanuel, which means, “God with us!” We are looking forward to Christmas with great excitement! We just can’t wait, but we must wait.
I wonder what we can do to make this time of waiting mean more to us. One way is to think about the true meaning of Christmas. We can think about Jesus and his love. We can think about giving instead of getting. We can enjoy all of the beautiful music and the decorations of the season. When we do those things, we are preparing our hearts and lives to truly understand what Christmas is about.
To help us prepare for Christmas Day, throughout this Advent Season, I wonder if you can help me decorate this tree. Will you help me? (Allow children to respond.) Each Sunday during Advent, we will add something to the tree to help us prepare for that BIG day; it will also help us remember the true meaning of Christmas.
I have created an Advent playlist to play as we decorate. This playlist will help us enjoy some of the season’s beautiful music and help us remember the true meaning of Christmas. As we decorate the tree each week, listen to the words in the songs. Play them each week with your family as you spend time together preparing for Christmas while remembering the true meaning of Christmas.
Today, I have a strand of small soft lights. They are not really bright, but they will bring attention to the tree, while we continue to prepare for Christmas Day. (Place the strand on the tree. Make sure the lights come on and can be plugged into an outlet near the tree.) I also have some purple ribbon to thread around the tree. “Why purple?” you might ask. Purple is a royal color and represents our anticipation while we wait for the birth of the king. The ribbon will remind us how the Advent season of hope, preparation, and waiting can make this Christmas more meaningful in our lives as we draw closer and closer to the celebration.
(Decorate the tree with the strand of lights. Play the playlist song.)
Thank you for helping me put this strand of lights and the ribbon on the tree. Did you hear the song that was played? Who recognized it and can tell me the name of the song? (Allow children to answer.) That’s right. The song’s title is “Here I Am to Worship” (available in Worship and Song, 3177). The lyrics remind us that we have hope in the coming birth of Jesus.
Listen to the lyrics at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b_KNvkk2G-Y. Did you hear the word hope in those lyrics? I love how this song reminds us that we are here to worship—here on this day and here in this world EVERY day!
As we pray, let’s look at our tree decorated with soft lights and the purple ribbon. I wonder what gives you hope this Christmas. Let’s pray.
Loving and Gracious God, our hope is in you. Use our lives and all that we can do for your glory. Let the whole world see in us the true reason we celebrate Christmas. Amen.