Celebrate the Hope, Love, Joy and Peace of Advent
Our journey continues into week two of Advent. This week we will strive to reach out to others in love. This week we will receive and give love faithfully to all of God's people we can.
For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Galatians 5:14 (NRSV)
Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. II Corinthians 9:7
Read the story Can We Help You, Saint Nicholas? by Gerda Marie Scheidl
This is the story of Saint Nicholas who is very human. He is on his way to deliver presents to the children. He is lost in the woods and cold when animals come to his rescue. They help to keep him warm, feed, and eventually get him on his way to deliver the presents to the children.
Explain to the children that Saint Nicholas was a real person who helped people a very long time ago and that this is a make believe story to show how we all need to help one another in God's world.
Talk with the children about sharing with others as the animals shared with Saint Nicholas and as Saint Nicholas intends to share with the children.
Create an idea bank of ways that your class or members of your class and their families might help other people. You may want to write these ideas on a helper chart, or a large sheet of paper cut into a shape such as one of the animals that helped Saint Nicholas or even a shape of Saint Nicholas.
Ask some questions that lead to the reason behind the celebration of Advent such as:
— Why do we help people?
— Who do you think asks us to help other people?
— Are waiting and getting ready for someone special to some right now?
— Who is that?
— Does Jesus Help other people?
Tell the story of Saint Nicholas as below or find a book with the story of Saint Nicholas to relate to the children.
In the fourth century there lived a man named Saint Nicholas, who was the Bishop of Myra, Lycia which in our times is the Southern part of Turkey.
Saint Nicholas was one of the most popular of all the saints. He was the patron saint of Russia and the special protector of children. In the time when Saint Nicholas lived in order for a young girl to find a husband she had to be able to offer something of value to the prospective husband and this was called a dowry. What was offered depended on how wealthy or what trade the father of the girl was engaged in. It could be cattle, seeds, land, or if he was very poor it might be just a few chickens. A fisherman might give a boat or nets. A shopkeeper might give portion of his business or some household goods. The richer the dowry the richer the husband. Giving gifts to people newly married is a reminder of this old custom.
In the town where Saint Nicholas lived there was a very poor man with three daughters. The man could hardly afford to even feed his daughters much less provide them with a dowry so they could be married. He was ready to just have to ask his daughters to leave his house. This would make big problems for his daughter and her really didn't want to do it. Saint Nicholas secretly went to the home and gave the poor man three dowries that these young girls could be saved from shame and marry. This is where the custom of giving presents in secret came from.
As people began to hear about the wonderful deeds that Saint Nicholas did they recreated him in their own countries to continue and add to the legend. In Holland he was pictured as a Bishop with all of the robes, staff, and mitre. The children of Holland would leave their shoes outside of the door and have them filled with goodies or possibly coal.
When the puritans left England they spent some time in Holland before traveling to America. They took the Dutch version of Saint Nicholas (Sinter Klaas) to America with them. He now became Santa Claus and was picture as a jolly old elf with a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer. As we all know this image came from the poem written by Clement Moore called The Night Before Christmas.
Celebrate with your class both Saint Nicholas and the birth of Jesus by helping others.
This is a great week to work on a class service project. You could use your list brainstormed above or any of the following ideas that have been used by teachers over the years.
A Christmas Express
Create a train decorated for Christmas from various size cardboard boxes. Label each of the train cars with the food or paper product that will hopefully fill it by the end of the Christmas season. Send out a plea to your families, congregation and even your neighborhood to help fill the train to help those less fortunate. If you make a steam engine the chimney makes a great bank for those who would rather contribute money. The children love to design these cars with paint, colored paper, ornaments, glitter, garland and anything their creative minds can think of.
Make Christmas bookmarks for the children of the school to distribute to members of the congregation after a worship service during the Advent season. A nice touch is to punch a hole in the top and add a ribbon bow.
Cards for the elderly
Make cards for the elderly in a nursing home or adult day care center, veterans home, hospital of other social service agency. Remember to check with the agency before beginning to confirm that you can bring them and what they prefer.
Chain of Caring
Objective: to show the children that even the simplest of activities can be a way of helping another person.
Materials: colored paper cut in 1" X 8" strips, tape, and fine line markers.
- Each morning as the children arrive have them write on a strip of paper something that they did the night before that helped someone. Some examples might be washing dishes, cleaning your room, feeding or walking the dog, shoveling snow, reading to a younger brother or sister, helping a friend with homework and the list continues. If you have smaller children you may need to write it for them or have a parent do it when they are dropped off.
- Have the children tape the chain link to the last link on the chain.
- Continue making the chain during the Advent season to see how long you can make it. It also becomes a wonderful decoration that might be shared with the congregation in the church during the 12 days of Christmas celebration.
Straw for the Manger
Objective: to show the children that even the simplest activity can be a way of helping other people.
Materials: shoebox painted or covered brown, small doll wrapped in a blanket that will fit in the shoebox, and yellow construction paper 12" X 18" cut into 1" strips.
- Give each child an envelope full of yellow strips.
- Show the children the manger made from the shoebox and the doll wrapped in swaddling clothes.
- Tell the children that they are going to try to fill the manger with hay (yellow strips) by the time Christmas comes. Each time they do something for someone else the should write it or have a teacher or parent write it on a strip of paper and put it in the manger.
Decorate nursing homes
Contact a nursing home or day care center to see if older children might help to decorate the home or center for the holidays. Be sure to adhere to restrictions set down by the agency you will be helping.
Christmas carol at a nursing home, adult day care center or a local mall.
Care for God's Creation Bird Feeders
Objective: to encourage the children to remember that helping means helping all of God's creation.
Materials: open pine cone, smooth peanut butter, bird seed, ribbon, plastic knives and a flat pan.
- Tie ribbon to the large end of the pine cone.
- Generously spread peanut butter on the pine cone.
- Roll in a pan of bird seed.
- Hang in the trees for the birds to enjoy.
Contact your local meals on wheels, shelters, or food kitchens and see if they can accept homemade cookies for the Christmas holidays. This is a great project to involve parents and your older children.
Objective: The Jesse tree will show the children the genealogy of Christ through the Old Testament through the use of story and symbols.
Materials: something to represent a tree such as a branch in a pot, a banner with a tree trunk glued onto it, or a plastic tree, a sheet of suggested symbols and where the stories are found such as:
— Adam and Eve, apple (Gen 1:26-30)
— Noah, ark (Gen 6-8)
— Abraham, starry sky (Gen. 15:1-6)
— Sarah, tent (Gen 18:1-15)
— Isaac, bundle of sticks (Gen 22:1-19)
— Jacob, ladder (Gen 28:10 - 15)
— Joseph, coat of many colors (Gen 37:2-11)
— Moses, stone tablets (Ex 24:12-18)
— Miriam, tambourine (Ex 15:20-21)
— Ruth, sheaf of grain (Ruth 2:1-15)
— Jeremiah, yoke (Jer 28), heavy white paper, crayons or markers, paper punch, and yarn.
- Have the tree set up in advance how you have decided to have it.
- Brainstorm with the children which people of faith they would also like to include that you don't have on your list and possible symbols for those people.
- Let the children draw their pictures, color them and cut them out into shapes.
- Punch a hole in the top and attach the yarn hanger.
- Hang the symbols on your Jesse Tree.
Remember that this is only one very simple idea for a Jesse Tree. You can find numerous books about creating Jesse Trees. They can be simple for the youngest children and more elaborate when working with older children.