Note to the Teacher
This week of Advent is all about JOY! With so many awful things happening in the world, it is SO GOOD to be able to focus on the JOY that we have in Emmanuel—God with us. Today’s lesson invites participants to make a choice – to choose JOY. The scriptures show how God involves us in proclaiming the good news, and the activity invites us to choose to accept this role as light-bearers.
Icebreaker (10 minutes)
Give each participant three small pieces of paper and a writing utensil. Have participants write down three gifts that they would like to get for Christmas; one on each piece of paper. Put all the pieces of paper in a basket. Have everyone sit in a circle. Start a timer for fifteen seconds. The first person tries to explain the item on the piece of paper for everyone to guess without saying the item or a word that rhymes with it; after fifteen seconds, the next person repeats the process.
Read Scripture (5 minutes)
Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11; John 1:6-8, 19-28
Discussion (10 minutes)
- The Isaiah passage says that the Spirit of God has anointed us to proclaim the good news. What are the many ways the passage outlines that we are to do this? Who was the “us” that Isaiah was writing to? How or why do we include ourselves in that “us” today?
- How might you translate some of these verses into today’s language? (For example, “bind up the brokenhearted” may translate to, “show love to those who are grieving.”)
- Talk about a time when someone showed you this type of love/comfort. How did it make you feel?
- What does it mean to “testify to the light” (John 1:7)? How might we do this?
- When have you experienced, as John described, a “voice crying out in the wilderness” (1:23)? How does it feel to experience a voice of hope/light/comfort/peace in the midst of darkness/struggle?
- Where in the world or in your life do you see darkness/struggle in need of God’s transforming joy?
Activity and Discussion (20 minutes)
This activity is about focusing on the light! Choose whichever option fits your group best, depending on energy levels and ability.
Setup: Find a large empty space about the size of half a basketball court. Place battery-powered tealights all over the playing area; turn half of them on and leave half of them off. Split your group into two teams.
Play: One team is trying to turn all the lights on; the other team is trying to turn the lights off. *They cannot move the lights around the room or guard them. Lights must remain in the playing field and accessible to everyone. Only one person can touch the light at one time.
(Note: if you cannot use battery-powered tea lights, you may also use playing cards scattered around the playing area.)
Passive Option: Find a large table or place two tables next to each other; Place playing cards on the table; half are flipped on one side and half on the other side. Split the group into two teams. One team tries to flip all the cards face up; the other team tries to flip all the cards face down.
- What did this game entail? How did it make you feel?
- When in your life do you feel like you’re competing to focus on JOY rather than darkness (to choose to live by our faith in the good news as opposed to despair/hopelessness?
- Was anyone tempted to give up or not play? Acknowledge that it can be exhausting to focus on JOY or to choose to do good; scripture encourages us to “never grow weary of doing good” (Galatians 6:9).
- In the game, you were an active participant in making a difference (turning on the light/flipping up the card). Our scripture today calls us to be active participants in bringing hope to the hopeless; to proclaim the good news; to comfort those who mourn. Where in your life can you take on this role as a light-bearer?
Pray for courage and strength to be light-bearers in the midst of darkness.
Total Time: 45 minutes
- For the icebreaker: three small pieces of paper for each person and a writing utensil; a basket; a fifteen-second timer
- For the game: either battery-powered tealights (about 20-40) or a few decks of playing cards