Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year B
Luke 1:46-49, NIRV
“My soul gives glory to the Lord.
47 My spirit delights in God my Savior.
48He has taken note of me
even though I am not considered important.
From now on all people will call me blessed.
49 The Mighty One has done great things for me.
His name is holy.
- Strand of bright red lights
- Small red heart ornaments for each child to place on the tree
- An old high school yearbook.
Do you know what a yearbook is? Most of us, when we attend high school, can remember what our picture looks like in a yearbook. (Show some photos from your yearbook.) Inside a yearbook will usually be a section of superlatives. That’s a huge word, but it means of very high quality or better than others: supreme. Some of the senior class superlatives might include “most likely to succeed, most athletic, most school spirit, or most likely to be president.” I wonder if your parents or grandparents had a superlative when they were in high school. To get voted for a superlative, your friends and others would have to think that you’re important or popular.
As we continue into Advent, we are another week closer to the big day! We are getting closer and closer. Are you continuing to become even more excited than you were last week? Today is the fourth Sunday of Advent. Just as a reminder, tell me again what Advent means? (Allow children to respond.) That’s right, Advent is a time of preparation and waiting. This sure is exciting.
I wonder if Mary would have been selected by her peers as a superlative. She wasn’t famous. She wasn’t rich. She wasn’t powerful. She was an ordinary person who was blessed by God to do an amazing thing. She gave birth to Jesus! Today’s Bible passage is actually the words of a song. In Luke’s Gospel, this passage is known as Mary’s Song. In the song, Mary says that she didn’t consider herself important. But, in this song, Mary praised God for choosing her for something so important. She wasn’t chosen or voted on by her peers; she was chosen by God! That’s love. And that’s today’s Advent theme—love!
God takes our ideas about who is the most popular, rich, and famous in the world and turns those ideas upside down! Ask your parents if they remember the names of those in their high school yearbooks. They may have forgotten most of them. We’ve forgotten the names of most of the rich and famous people from Mary’s time, but we remember her name because of what God did.
Today, I have a strand of bright, red-colored lights. I also have a small heart-shaped ornament for each of you. If you would hand them to me (if needed, get a second adult to help hang ornaments), I will hang each ornament on the tree. The hearts remind us how Mary was blessed by God for the love that God had for her. This will make Christmas more meaningful in our lives as we draw closer and closer to the celebration.
While we decorate, remember our Advent playlist. 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 selected. Play them each week with your family as you spend time together preparing for Christmas as a reminder of the true meaning of Christmas. Today’s playlist song is another song about Mary. Perhaps you have heard it. Listen to the words as we continue to decorate the tree. (Click here to see the Pentatonix version of the song. Lyrics are available online at this link.)
(Place the strand of lights on the tree. Make sure the lights will come on and twinkle and can be plugged into an outlet near the tree. Decorate the tree with heart shaped ornaments while the playlist song plays.)
As I listen to the lyrics of this song, I wonder about Mary. Mary was chosen by God to do something extraordinary. That is such a wonderful image of God’s love. These hearts on our decorated tree and this week’s playlist song remind us of the powerful love of God!
As we pray, let’s look at our tree. As we look at the lights and the red hearts on the tree, I wonder if you feel loved this Christmas. Love from a parent. Love from a loved one. Love from God. This week, I encourage you to share the love of this season.
Loving God, we love you because you first loved us. Thank you for your love shown to Mary. Thank you for your love that is made real in our hearts. Help us to love one another, and as Mary reminds us in her song from Luke, let our souls give glory to you, O God. Amen.
Christmas Eve, Year B
Luke 2:4-7, NIRV
4So Joseph went also. He went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea. That is where Bethlehem, the town of David, was. Joseph went there because he belonged to the family line of David. 5 He went there with Mary to be listed. Mary was engaged to him. She was expecting a baby. 6 While Joseph and Mary were there, the time came for the child to be born. 7 She gave birth to her first baby. It was a boy. She wrapped him in large strips of cloth. Then she placed him in a manger. That’s because there was no guest room where they could stay.
Luke 2:8-12, NIRV
8There were shepherds living out in the fields nearby. It was night, and they were taking care of their sheep. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them. And the glory of the Lord shone around them. They were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news. It will bring great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you. He is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 Here is how you will know I am telling you the truth. You will find a baby wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in a manger.”
- Bright shiny tree topper in the shape of a star. Prior to this message, select several adults to serve as innkeepers and one adult to have the tree topper in his/her possession.
- "Beautiful Star of Bethlehem”
- "Away in a Manger” (United Methodist Hymnal, 217)
Today is Christmas Eve! Are you excited? Did it seem like we have been waiting for a long time? There is such a feeling of excitement in the air, and I can feel it. Did you know that in Mexico, there is a Christmas tradition called Las Posadas? Have any of you heard of Las Posadas? (Allow children to respond. If you do have children who are familiar with this tradition, invite them into the conversation.) Those who celebrate Las Posadas act out today’s scripture passage during a nine-day celebration. The word posadas is a Spanish word that means shelter. Children and adults in the community form an outdoor procession. Do you know what the word “procession” means? (Allow children to answer.) A procession is a group of individuals moving along in an orderly way. Sometimes at the beginning of worship, a church choir, followed by the pastors, may process into the sanctuary. Have you ever seen that? (Allow children to respond.)
In Las Posadas, the procession winds through the streets of the town with people carrying lighted candles. There are two people who portray Mary and Joseph. Others play the role of innkeepers. Those playing Mary and Joseph are in the front of the line, and when those in the procession stop at the innkeeper’s door, they ask for a place to stay. At each of the houses, the innkeeper tells them in a rude way to “go away, no room!” Then all the members in that house follow “Mary and Joseph” to the next house. The procession continues with people knocking on door after door, until it ends at the church. By that time, the whole town may have joined in the procession. When they reach the church, the baby Jesus appears, and everyone celebrates with a HUGE party!
Today, we are going to have our own Las Posadas here in church. I have selected some people here to be innkeepers. Innkeepers, where are you? (Have them raise a hand, or even have a sign to hold up that states the name of a fictious inn.) We are going to process from innkeeper to innkeeper while our playlist song is played. Let’s see what happens.
(Lead the children around the worship space from innkeeper to innkeeper. Play the Advent playlist song, “Beautiful Star of Bethlehem” while you are “traveling.” Have each innkeeper reply, “No room.” The procession should end at the front where the innkeeper who welcomes you is staged near the tree and has the tree topper star.)
This tradition from Mexico reminds us that many Hispanic Christians in our country have traveled here from far away. They know what it is like to seek safety and shelter from someone else. Sometimes they have been rudely turned away and told, “No room.” But sometimes they have been welcomed and given shelter. I wonder who you have been welcoming during this past year.
Today, we have a beautiful star tree topper to place on the top of our tree. Did you listen to the song that was playing while we were having our Las Posadas? What was the word you heard in the lyrics of the song? (Allow children to respond.) That’s right. The song is called “Beautiful Star of Bethlehem.” This star looks perfect on top of our tree, doesn’t it? This star reminds us of the wise men who followed the star that led them to Jesus. “Beautiful Star of Bethlehem” tells us to follow Jesus as our star that gives us light along the way as we journey with Jesus. By placing this star on the tree, we have made this Christmas more meaningful in our lives. We have drawn closer and closer, and tomorrow, we can celebrate the birth of our savior!
While I place the star on top of the tree, remember our Advent playlist. This playlist will help us enjoy some of the season’s beautiful music and help us remember the true meaning of Christmas. Listen to the words in the songs selected. Play them each week with your family as you spend time together preparing for Christmas as a reminder of the true meaning of Christmas. This song is one that I am certain you have heard before. Listen to the words as I place the star atop the tree.
(Place the star atop the tree. Play the Advent playlist song, “Away in a Manger.”)
Away in a manger,
No crib for a bed,
The little Lord Jesus
Lay down his sweet head
The stars in the sky
Looked down where he lay
The little Lord Jesus,
Asleep on the hay
The cattle are lowing,
The poor baby wakes
But little Lord Jesus
No crying he makes
I love Thee, Lord Jesus,
Look down from the sky
And stay by my side
'Til morning is nigh
Be near me, Lord Jesus,
I ask Thee to stay
Close by me forever
And love me I pray
Bless all the dear children
In Thy tender care
And take us to heaven
To live with Thee there
Take us to heaven
To live with Thee there
That is such a tender beautiful song that reminds us of the Nativity. And that is what Christmas is all about. That is why we celebrate on this Christmas Eve by placing the star on top of the tree. The star of hope. The star of peace. The star of love. The star of Christmas. Merry Christmas!
Thank you, loving and gracious God, for sending your Son to us, to be born as a baby, to be worshiped and adored, to teach us your ways, to give us the hope of eternal life, to make peace possible with you and with one another, to put joy in our hearts, that we may make room in our lives for those who need our help. In all things, we give you honor and praise! Amen.