Anna's Hosannas! 
 
Free Worship Resources for the Use with the Lectionary
Print this pageAdd to Favorite
Fourth Sunday of Advent
 
Scripture Reference:  Matthew 1: 18-25
 
 
First Thoughts -- On the fourth Sunday of Advent we celebrate love.  Love as it is defined in this Matthew passage is Emmanuel, “God is with us.”  This is such a familiar name to us, and such a regular Christmas theme, that initially it might not find its mark in our hearts and mind.  God is with us - like, all the time.  Nothing we do is on our own.  Any idea we have of ourselves as self-reliant, any pride we take in being independent, all that is undercut by this simple statement:  God is with us.  Take a moment to read Psalm 139: 1-12.  First read it reverently, as someone who welcomes this intimacy with God.  Next try reading it like an annoyed teenager, who considers this attention to be invasive.  How do we feel about God’s constant presence in our lives?  Does it make us feel safe and loved, or watched and judged?  Do we welcome God’s help in our lives?  Do we even feel we need it?  As Americans we are taught to value independence and self-confidence; but the gospel teaches radical connection and interdependence, not only with God but with a community of faith.  Spend some time reflecting on how you feel yourself a part of God’s community of faith, as a giver and a receiver.  Or spend some time reflecting on where you cling to independence or isolation in your Christian walk.  How might God be inviting you into deeper relationship and deeper reliance this Advent season?  Share your thoughts with your partner, or bring it on your own to God in prayer.
 
Setting the Scene --  You will need a teddy bear, or other stuffed animal, to add to the manger centerpiece this week.
 
Teaching as a Team
Leader A: (dancing around a bit, stretching his arms around trying to reach his back) Oooh!  Ahh!  Oooh!
Leader B: (Name), what in the world are you doing?
Leader A: I have this terrible itch on my back, and I’m… ooh… trying to… uhhh… reach it. (Keeps up this “dance” throughout the dialogue.) 
Leader B:  Uh, would you like me to help you?
Leader A: No.  Absolutely not.  I have to take care of it by myself.
Leader B: Why is that?
Leader A: Because it’s important to be independent.  To take care of your own business. To be beholden to no one.
Leader B:  And why is that so important?
Leader A:  Because that’s what it means to be grown-up.  You know what the bible says, “God helps those who help themselves.” 
Leader B: That’s NOT in the bible.
Leader A:  Oh, yeah?  Well, what IS in the bible?
Leader B: That we are to share one another’s burdens. Before Jesus was even born the angel told Mary and Joseph they were to call him Emmanuel, which means “God is with us.”  We’re not supposed to be alone.  God is with us, and God has put us  together as a community to be with each other and to help each other.  That’s love.
Leader A:  I know what love means - it means to really care about someone.
Leader B:  But it’s not enough just to feel love for someone.  For love to be real, you have to live it out.  Every day we show up for each other, forgive each other when we mess up, and offer support and help where we can.  AND we let others take care of us in the same way.  So, with that in mind, would you PLEASE let me scratch your back for you?
Leader A:  (nearly screaming with relief) YES!  PLEASE!  (Leader B scratches back, and Leader A sighs with relief)  Thank you.
Leader B: You’re welcome.  (to kids)  So can you guess what the theme is for this fourth Sunday of Advent?  It’s love.  We need to add our final item to the manger, something that represents love.  And I have just the thing (brings out bear).  How many of you have a stuffed animal from when you were little?  A friend which kept you company as you slept at night, maybe traveled with you in the car when you went places?  Maybe you have that kind of friend right now.  Well, that’s what this is - a reminder of ever-present love.  God is always around to listen to us and care for us, just like a favorite stuffed animal.  (look at bear) I think we’ll call him Emmanuel!
Leader A: Manny for short.
Leader B: Okay, so who wants to put him in the manger?  (Allow volunteer to place.)
 
Teaching on your Own: (start by doing a little “itchy dance” trying to reach arms around to back) Have you ever had an itch right in the middle of your back?  Right where you just can’t reach it no matter how hard you try?  I’ve had this itch all morning, and no matter how hard I try I just can’t reach it.  What do you think I should do?  Should I ask for help?  But I hate to ask for help, don’t you?  I mean, I want to take care of myself.  That’s what growing up is.  You learn to tie your own shoes, put on your own clothes, ride your own bike, read your own books.  The point of growing up is for us not to need anybody else, right?  Actually, no!  According to the bible, God didn’t create us to be on our own, but to be together, and to rely on each other.  In fact, one of the names given to Jesus before he was born is Emmanuel.  Say that with me: Emmanuel.  Do you know what that means?  It means “God is with us.”  God has promised to be with us all the time, and to help us out every day of our lives.  And, as God’s people, that means we are supposed to be with each other and help each other.  So, with that in mind, could one of you scratch my back, please?!  (sigh with relief)  Ah, that’s love!  And that’s the theme for this Sunday, love.  You know, love means more than just feeling a certain way about someone.  For love to be real, you have to live it out.  Every day we show up for each other, forgive each other when we mess up, and offer support and help where we can.  AND we let others take care of us in the same way.  We need to add our final item to the manger, something that represents love.  And I have just the thing (brings out bear).  How many of you have a stuffed animal from when you were little?  A friend which kept you company as you slept at night, maybe traveled with you in the car when you went places?  Maybe you have that kind of friend right now.  Well, that’s what this is - a reminder of ever-present love.  God is always around to listen to us and care for us, just like a favorite stuffed animal.  (look at bear) I think we’ll call him Emmanuel, Manny for short!  Who would like to place Manny in the manger?  (Allow volunteer to place.)
 
Prayer:  Loving God, on this fourth Sunday of Advent, we ask that you will help us to grow in love.  Give us the strength to be good friends, to forgive each other and to help each other every day.  And give us the humility to ask for forgiveness, and to allow others to help us. Make us the people of love, who become Emmanuel to each other and to the world.  In Christ’s name we pray, Amen.
 
Follow-Up Lesson --  Try playing some games which illustrate our need to rely on each other.  A game that immediately comes to mind is Jenga, the block-building game where you repeatedly remove and replace blocks until the structure falls.  Contrast the structure at the beginning of the game (firm, solid) with the structure at the end.  What made the difference?  Too many blocks were missing.  What happens to our church when people don’t show up, or try to go on their own?  Encourage the children to think of ways they make up the structure of the church.  What are the gifts they bring?  What are gifts they receive?